Fate, however, might have other plans after Wednesday’s news that quarterback Deshaun Watson is done for the rest of the season after suffering a displaced fracture in his throwing shoulder during the game.
The Browns (6-3) will now turn to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson as they prepare to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium in a game with major playoff implications for both teams.
A win by the Browns could leave them in first place in the AFC North, pending the outcome of Thursday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-4). A loss would give the Steelers the tiebreaker advantage over the Browns, which no one wants to see happen.
The victory over the Ravens put Cleveland’s playoff chances at 84 percent overall, with a 53 percent chance of making it as one of the AFC’s three Wild Card entries, according to The New York Times. If they can take down the Steelers on Sunday, the playoff odds jump up to 92 percent; a loss drops those chances to 69 percent - not horrible but not as good.
Sunday’s game is a huge one for a Browns team that was riding high after beating Baltimore but is now dealing with the reality of playing the rest of the season without their starting quarterback.
While we are waiting for kickoff, let’s jump in and take a look at this week’s rooting guide for Browns fans.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) vs. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
The weekend gets off to an early start on Thursday with an AFC matchup. The Bengals might be kings of the NFC West (a perfect 4-0) but they are bumbling their way through the tougher AFC as last week’s loss to the Houston Texans dropped Cincinnati’s conference record to 1-4. The Ravens are stinging after being bullied by the Browns last week and coming to grips with their playoff seeding taking a hit. While it would be nice for both teams to lose, that is not possible, so another Baltimore loss will have to suffice. Root for the Bengals
Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) vs. Miami Dolphins (6-3)
The Raiders completed their New York Daily Double last week by beating the New York Jets a week after beating the New York Giants. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are coming off the bye week in first place in the AFC East, but not exactly looking like a dominant team. Miami is a perfect 4-0 at home and expecting the Raiders to be the team to hand the Dolphins their first home loss feels like a stretch, but stranger things have happened. Root for the Raiders
Tennessee Titans (3-6) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3)
The Will Levis bump came to an end for the Titans last week with their second consecutive loss, while the Jaguars found that the demise of the San Francisco 49ers may have been premature. The Browns have the Jaguars on the schedule later in the season, but having them pick up another loss to put them a game back in the standings would be beneficial. Root for the Titans
Arizona Cardinals (2-8) vs. Houston Texans (5-4)
The Cardinals welcomed back quarterback Kyler Murray and picked up their second win of the season with a late victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The Texans, meanwhile, decided that last-minute wins are cool and picked up their second-consecutive victory at the final whistle in taking down the Bengals. The Browns will have their chance at the Texans on December 24, but seeing Houston stack a few losses between now and then would not be the worst thing. Root for the Cardinals
New York Jets (4-5) vs. Buffalo Bills (5-5)
The Jets remain the Jets and are puzzling through how to survive with a Zach Wilson-led offense that has not scored a touchdown in 11 quarters and have a total of just 13 offensive touchdowns in their past nine games. On the other side are the Bills, who decided to fire their offensive coordinator this week after another game filled with turnovers, miscues and mistakes during a loss to the Denver Broncos. The Jets are much less of a threat - and the Browns still have them on the schedule - so another loss by the Bills is the way to go. Root for the Jets
Minnesota Vikings (6-4) vs. Denver Broncos (4-5)
Sunday night brings a matchup of two teams that are surging as the Vikings have won five in a row - including the past two with old friend Joshua Dobbs at quarterback - and the Broncos picked up their third consecutive win by beating the Bills. Of course, if Buffalo’s special teams coordinator could count, the Broncos would have lost and they would be feeling a bit different. If the Dobbs magic can hold for another week, then the Browns can put the Broncos to rest the following week when they meet in Denver. Root for the Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)
The marquee game of the weekend comes on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. A win by the Browns on Sunday followed by a Kansas City loss on Monday would leave the teams boasting the same record, which no one would have seen coming at this point in the season. Root for the Eagles
How are you currently feeling about the Browns chances at making the playoffs now that quarterback Deshaun Watson is done for the season?