Much like the non-College Football Playoff bowl games, the game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon essentially means nothing for the Cleveland Browns since they have already been eliminated from postseason contention. They could pack it in, rest their star players assuring that they remain healthy, and hope that they lose in order to secure a better spot in the NFL Draft order. They could completely look past Week 17 and look forward to the offseason. They could do all of those things, but they aren’t.
With the Ravens having everything on the line, the Browns aren’t going to let up either. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think that Cleveland was the team playing for a spot in the postseason this Sunday. They not only want to win, but the Browns want to ruin the postseason dream in Baltimore as well. The Browns plan to take their game to a whole different level and potentially finish a season sweep of the Ravens.
“Absolutely. This is the first playoff-atmosphere game that our guys have seen,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Denver was great, a primetime game, but this is a big one. They are playing for a playoff spot, and we are playing to prove who we are. As I said last week, we have to win the last few games. Right now, we are focused on the Ravens. It will be a great atmosphere.”
“They are playing for a playoff spot, and we are playing to prove who we are.”
Only a rookie, Mayfield already gets it. That’s what being a leader is all about. Even with nothing on the line in Week 17, the quarterback knows that he must not only be all in but must make it known that the Browns need to continue to improve and win this game in order to carry that momentum into the offseason and next fall.
“Absolutely, especially since this has been such a new team and so many new faces. We will see what happens. We would obviously love to have this one and end the season on a very, very high note,” Mayfield said. “Obviously, disappointing somebody else’s playoff hopes, that is motivation, too.
“I think if we take care of business on Sunday, that is 4-1-1 in our division this year. That is pretty much a really good turnaround from past years so that is the way we want it to be.”
Not only that, but there are still plenty of doubters surrounding the Browns’ recent success the last few weeks and essentially since the time Mayfield took over at quarterback. A win in Baltimore, therefore finishing the season 8-7-1 and most likely knocking the Ravens out of a spot in the postseason will silence most of those doubters.
Much like Mayfield, defensive back Damarious Randall has made to not only be a leader on the Browns but has made sure that his voice has been heard as well. Whether it’s trash-talking opponents or handing the ball to former head coach Hue Jackson after one of his interceptions, the veteran clearly is one of the leaders on this team. While his quarterback has stated that Cleveland is playing to prove who they are, Randall believes that Sunday is a “playoff game” for the Browns, even if they have already been eliminated from the postseason.
“We’re treating this game like a playoff game,” he said of Sunday’s season finale.
“We’re treating this game like a playoff game.”
In case you needed any more assurance about the Browns’ thoughts about the Ravens in Week 17, Jarvis Landry also believes that there is plenty on the line as well.
“Who knows? I know it is going to be a playoff type of atmosphere with those guys having the opportunity to go into the postseason,” Landry said. “For us, like I have been saying, we want to win these games, regardless of what lies ahead for us.”
It’s simple: The Browns are tired of losing, especially against their division rivals. No matter what they are playing for this season beyond this week, it’s clear that they want to beat the Ravens, not only to finish the season above .500 but to put the NFL on notice going into the offseason. Oh, and there are plenty of personal goals/milestones on the line as well:
The Browns are feeling dangerous and they won’t let a game that is essentially pointless for them hold their team back. Baltimore better bring their “A” game on Sunday because it’s clear that the Browns are. Cleveland’s leaders won’t allow their team not to. Now, we just have to wait and see if the Browns can win their “playoff game” on Sunday, forcing Baltimore to watch the entire postseason from the comfort of their own home instead of taking part in it.