The Cleveland Browns not only locked up a playoff birth in Week 17 but they did so on Thursday Night Football giving the players a chance to rest a little longer. It also gives Browns fans a chance to catch their breath while looking ahead and back a little bit.
We’ve tried to help with that with a variety of posts:
- How Cleveland can get the 1st, 2nd or 5th seeds in the AFC playoff picture
- 6 players who missed Week 17 that could help in the playoffs
- Joe Flacco is cashing in with every victory this year
- This year’s playoffs provide a chance to exorcise some ghosts from the past
- Week 18 gives the Browns a chance to do something not seen in 37 years
If you read through the post about the seeding possibilities, you know how they impact the Week 18 post. If the Baltimore Ravens knock off the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, Cleveland is locked into the fifth seed with nothing to play for in Week 18. If the Dolphins win, everything is possible.
If the first or second seeds are possible, we know what the Browns will do.
What about if the fifth seed is certain and there is nothing to play for in Week 18 versus the Cincinnati Bengals?
I proposed to the DBN staff that question. Since I asked it, I should be the first to answer:
Momentum, timing and rhythm are a hard thing to restart. The Browns, especially on offense, have all three of those things right now. I would trust Flacco as a veteran to protect himself and put everyone healthy enough on offense on the field for the first half (give or take) while protecting everyone on defense that I could.
Having a winning record in the AFC North and keeping the other Ohio team winless in the division are added bonuses.
If the Ravens win in Week 17, the Browns should sit every key player they can and still field a team. If that means they have to roll out the D squad and give the Bengals their Super Bowl by beating a PJ Walker- or Jeff Driskel-led offense, then so be it. It has been a long season, they have too much riding on the playoffs to risk anyone else getting hurt, especially Joe Flacco and Myles Garrett. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the rust factor if they sit several players given that the Browns have played 13 consecutive weeks thanks to having such an early bye week. Now if the Ravens lose today? Well ... we’ll get to that in due course.
I’m probably in the minority on this but my feeling is that we should be going hard all the time. I know that a big concern is a fear of more injuries, but I don’t think you can discount out-of-hand how turning off the intensity can have a lingering effect.
Like everyone else, I’m quite gratified by the performance of Joe Flacco and how this offense is currently working out. At the same time, I can’t help but notice the LARGE amount of turnover-worthy plays that are happening. It’s understandable and I’m not throwing shade at the guy who came off the couch a month ago and IMMEDIATELY started slinging the ball all over the yard.
It is to say, in addition to my not wanting to tone down our intensity, I kinda feel like this group needs as many reps together as it can get, particularly on offense. If we’re serious about this potentially being a Super Bowl-caliber team I think some additional time together perfecting the timing (and cutting back on the turnovers) is more advantageous than “playing not to get hurt”.
And…of course, you know I also just kinda want to beat down the Bengals. However, that’s an ancillary objective; us not losing the current mojo we seem to be rolling with is my paramount concern.
Sit anyone remotely important. As we have seen this season the injury Gods have not been kind to the Browns so why even tempt it?
There is no upside to playing everyone. This is an easy choice in my mind.
Is this even a question? You rest as many starters as you can. If the Browns retain the #5 seed, they have nothing to gain and tons to lose. This roster can’t go to Dunkin’ Donuts without getting hurt. Why get C Ethan Pocic hurt in Week 18 when Luke Wypler can step in? a) Pocic is then ready for Indy/Hou/Jax, b) you also have Nick Harris healthy, and c) Wypler gets game-action reps. Then you translate that same attitude for every starting position. Play the new QB3, give Pierre Strong the rock, see what Apu (Siaki Ika) is made of. Me personally, I would bring up as many practice squad players as possible (only 2 allowed sadly), take them along with all of subs from the 53rd guy on up and play them, then fill in the remainder with starters. 73-0 loss no worries. It is called “strategy.”
If the Ravens win in Week 17, the Browns should rest all their starters in Week 18 — the crazy thing is, I think it would still give them a decent shot at beating the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns have shown to have some quality and intriguing depth on the offensive line with the likes of Michael Dunn, Nick Harris, and Luke Wypler. The backup tackle situation gets a bit trickier, but whatever — it’d be even worst to have James Hudson or Geron Christian suffer an injury that affects the playoffs.
P.J. Walker would be motivated to go out there and try to pull off another victory. Pierre Strong would probably get a chance to carry the load, and he’s been looking forward to having more carries. We may even get a chance to see training camp sensation Austin Watkins have a chance to play. If there’s nothing to gain, I’m not worried about rust come playoff time — have Myles Garrett’s shoulder feel healthier, get Amari Cooper healthy, let Joel Bitonio feel fresher, and let’s roll. Joe Flacco already has thrived with essentially no practice time, so rust doesn’t seem like a worry for him, compared to ensuring he stays healthy.
What say you, DBN community? Is there value to keeping the momentum going or no reason to risk a darn thing in Week 18 if the Ravens win today?
Hopefully, this will be a moot discussion later this afternoon!