Note: ESPN did not do rankings this week, so they are excluded. Also, we did not do the “up/down” listings compared to last week, because some of the power rankings take a shift in mentality for their postseason rankings.
They head to the playoffs at Houston as one of the wild-card teams who can make a run. Joe Flacco has been good in the postseason in his career, which matters.
Unless you’re a sicko who is already thinking about expanded roles for Alex Wright and David Bell next season, there wasn’t much for Browns fans to take away from Sunday’s meaningless loss to the Bengals. Playoff mania has taken over Cleveland, as Joe Flacco, Amari Cooper, Myles Garrett and select other starters were rested in preparation for Super Wild Card Weekend, when Cleveland will head to Houston. On the surface, one might assume the Browns should be confident, given they just smashed the Texans a few weeks back, taking a 36-7 lead early in the fourth quarter in NRG Stadium before a few garbage-time TDs brought the final score closer. But there’s one catch: That was with Case Keenum and Davis Mills at quarterback for Houston, not C.J. Stroud, who missed two games after he suffered a concussion. Stroud has looked like he’s back in rare rookie form over the past two weeks. Flacco was starting NFL games when Stroud was 6 years old. Now they’re going head to head for a spot in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
There’s nothing fluky about Joe Flacco executing the offense. He’s locked into main weapons Amari Cooper and David Njoku, and despite offensive line injuries, Cleveland is fielding an explosive passing game instead of leaning on the run. The defense with Myles Garrett is the signature strength, but the concern is how well it can travel.
The Browns didn’t care about Sunday’s finale so we won’t care about the results. How will the Browns’ season be seen without a playoff win or two? It’s strange for a franchise that has had so few postseason berths, but a one-and-done would probably feel like a big disappointment. They have a winnable game at Houston to start their postseason.
The Cleveland Browns may have gotten waxed in Cincinnati Sunday, but it didn’t matter. They were already locked into the AFC’s No. 5 seed and had secured their most wins since re-entering the NFL in 1999, which is no small feat for a team that started five different quarterbacks in over the course of the season. Now it’s on to the playoffs to face the Texans, and edge-rusher Ogbo Okoronkwo told reporters he knows the team will have its hands full with Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud.
“I mean, C.J.’s a dynamic player,” he said. “He’s a really good quarterback, but we’re going to definitely just watch the tape. We’re going to treat him, we’re going to respect them and just go and do our due diligence and do our homework on them.” ... “The Browns find themselves in an unfamiliar spot. They’re no longer the prey. They’re the hunters,” Sobleski said. “Despite everything that could have gone wrong this season with all of the injuries throughout the roster, Kevin Stefanski and crew still finished tied for the AFC’s second-best record.
“For the first time since the franchise’s rebirth in 1999, the Browns clinched a playoff spot before the final week of play and sat key individuals during a meaningless contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
He added: “The accomplishment means nothing without a serious postseason run, and Cleveland is more than capable of dismantling opponents mainly because its top-ranked defense. Myles Garrett will be on the hunt, with Stroud serving as his first target. Jim Schwartz’s unit, coupled with veteran play from quarterback Joe Flacco, will make the Browns a tough out.”
Led by a shutdown defense and the remarkable resurgence of Joe Flacco, the Cleveland Browns are a team that will surprise you at every turn. Many people believed the team was done for after they lost both star running back Nick Chubb and starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. They kept on rolling though. Head coach Kevin Stefanski is the frontrunner for Coach of the Year for good reason.
What do you think of the Browns’ ranking this week?