The next two games for the Browns will represent an opportunity again for the team to make a big statement when it comes to being a force in the AFC North.
The team, with a home win over the Bengals Sunday and a road win next week against the Ravens, will end the season with a divisional mark of 4-1-1, their best divisional mark since their return to the NFL in 1999.
“We have improved in that area,” Browns interim coach Gregg Williams said on Thursday.
“That is the message that we wanted to do, but we have to continue to do it. You can’t rest on our laurels. Every single time you have to get ready to go because it is going to be a hard fought game.
“We may know more about them; they may know more about us, too. It becomes a battle of wills that way.”
The statement for the Browns in the division started on opening day, as they battled back from down 21-7 to tie the Steelers 21-21.
They topped the Ravens in overtime at home 12-9, but then they lost their only divisional game so far in 2018, a beat down by the Steelers in Pittsburgh 33-18.
The next day Hue Jackson was fired as coach of the Browns, and the mindset of the team hasn’t been the same.
Now with a win over the Bengals, they have a chance for a sweep over their Ohio rivals.
Doing it at home in front of a large crowd would be sweet for a number of reasons, but also showing now Bengals assistant coach Hue Jackson just how far this team has come might be the best part.
Williams said Thursday that getting a divisional sweep over Cincinnati would give the team a lot of confidence even for next season.
“Yesterday when we talked about that not only just the sweeping part of it but every time that you play a division game, it is important,” Williams said.
“You see how you measure up. You want to win your division. When you win your division, that is what always put you in the hunt at the end of the year.
“We state the fact that it counts for two. You play a division game, it counts two. We are trying to emphasize the double emphasis of that.”
The Browns still have a very slim shot at the postseason, but no matter the team is headed in the right direction, and even if they don’t play past week 17, they are going to go into next year with plenty of momentum after what they’ve built this season.
One big question is what the future holds for Williams and rest of the Browns coaching staff.
The former defensive coordinator has done such a good job, it’s not far fetched to think that he’ll be back at the head man in 2019 just based on how the team has responded to him this year.
“I think the core of guys is very good in there. I really do. I believe in that,” Williams said.
“We talked a couple of days ago also about the word belief. I believe with all of my heart that culture beats strategy any day of the week. When you have that they way it is supposed to be, then we can start to do things in a way schematically that fits the athletic ability of the guys you have around, but you have to have the right culture.
“That starts from internal leadership, and then the internal leadership taking it to the field, and inside the white lines on gameday, that same type of mentality has to be there. There is less coaching going on those gamedays.
“What people do not realize is that it is a day for the players to make sure – Monday through Saturday, I’m trying to do everything we can to have that impact – but now you have to do it.”
A lot of national pundits know that the Browns are on the rise, and hopefully the last two games of 2018 will see even more of what they have already built on over the last two months.