The Cleveland Browns saw everything break right on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Losses by both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens leave the Browns in a position where if they win their final two games - and get a little bit of help - they will return to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The news got even better on Monday as the club activated eight players off of the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning they will be eligible for practice this week as the Browns prepare for the game against the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
We've activated 8 players from reserve/COVID-19 and made other roster moves— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 27, 2021
The players who cleared the NFL-mandated protocols on Monday and were activated are left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, running back Kareem Hunt, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr., cornerback Troy Hill, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. and offensive guard Drew Forbes.
Cleveland did place linebacker Elijah Lee on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Wills being back means that the Browns can move Joel Bitonio back to his natural position at left guard after the Pro Bowler filled in at left tackle the past two games. And if center JC Tretter clears protocols in time, the Browns could be looking at having four of their five starters on the offensive line ready for the Steelers.
Possibly getting Hunt back on the field - he would have missed the past two games with an ankle injury even if not on the COVID-19 list - would be a nice boost against a Pittsburgh defense giving up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground this season.
The biggest bump may come on the defensive side of the ball, however, as Clowney’s return takes some of the sting out of losing defensive end Takk McKinley to a season-ending Achilles injury, and gives defensive end Myles Garrett, who is dealing with a groin injury, some help.
After today’s transactions, the Browns are down to just eight players currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list:
- center JC Tretter
- cornerback Greg Newsome II
- placekicker Chase McLaughlin
- defensive tackle Jordan Elliott
- linebacker Tony Fields II
- offensive tackle Alex Taylor
- linebacker Elijah Lee
- safety Tedric Thompson
For the Browns to make the playoffs, they need to win their final two games, have the Cincinnati Bengals lose this upcoming Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, and have the Ravens lose either Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams or in Week 18 to the Steelers.