The Cleveland Browns have been here before but, thankfully, this year and last they weren’t eliminated from playoff contention until the last couple of weeks in the season. In years past, they have been done by Thanksgiving.
That doesn’t make playing out the last two games any easier for fans to deal with. The team is full of talented, high-paid players but is sitting at 6-9 with no chance at the division, playoffs or even a winning record.
The best thing the Browns can still do this season is to be a spoiler for their remaining opponents. The Washington Commanders (this week) are in the playoff picture in the NFC while the Pittsburgh Steelers (next week) still haven’t been eliminated and are trying to hold on to HC Mike Tomlin’s streak of never having a losing record.
This week against the Commanders could be interesting with a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball:
Who will start at QB for Washington?
HC Ron Rivera benched Taylor Heinicke during last week’s loss to San Fransisco but is noncommittal on if Carson Wentz will start this week or he’ll go back to Heinicke. Both have had their struggles this year but Heinicke has been more consistent with less turnovers.
Does Cleveland rest anyone?
Covered earlier in the week, with the playoffs out of reach could the Browns decide to either sit some players or cut back on their workload? Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper are a few players that could see a change in their snaps.
Does Watson have a breakout game?
Cleveland fans need to see one of these last two games be one where Deshaun Watson puts up some big numbers and carries the team. The Commanders have a good defense (as do the Steelers) so it will be tough but would be a huge confidence booster going into 2023.
How much does Young play?
Rivera noted that Young would get more snaps this week after playing 30 last week in his return from a major injury. Young is a dominant force but still needs time to get up to speed. With a variety of talented players on the defensive line, Young can benefit from getting one on one blocking.
Is defensive improvement real for the Browns?
With a couple of quality running backs and wide receivers, Washington can put up points quite easily if the quarterback play is good. Cleveland’s defense has played better over the last few weeks:
Defensive EPA rankings since Week 11:— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 27, 2022
Outside of Cincinnati, who didn’t have two of their top receivers, the Browns haven’t played a quality offense in that stretch but, like last year, the raw data has improved. Can they keep it going against Washington?
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