The 2018 Cleveland Browns started the year disappointing the fanbase only to turn the season around and become a thoroughly entertaining team who have won five of their last six games. A midseason firing of both head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley seemed to be the spark the team needed as interim head coach Gregg Williams and new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens have had the team’s attention.
The last game against the Baltimore Ravens does not have playoff hopes resting on them for the Browns, but it is the first Week 17 in a long while where both the team and fans remain fully engaged.
Here we go.
Baker Mayfield said “we are playing for who we are.” Is this game important for the Browns future?
Bode: If the team plays with that sentiment, then it is what matters here much more than the outcome of the game. It is Week 17 in late December and people in Cleveland want to watch the Browns play. Mayfield’s mindset is a big part of it, and he doesn’t want to start his potential rivalry with Lamar Jackson off with a loss.
Pat: I think it’s important for the team to come out and fight for a win. The days of losing for better draft picks are over and I can’t imagine Baker Mayfield or Gregg Williams having the mindset that they’re going to throw a game to boost their draft stock or screw over the Steelers. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything terribly important about this game. As long as the Browns are trying to win the game, that’s all that matters; the result clearly doesn’t matter.
Poloha: A chance to win a football game is always important for any team, especially when it pertains to a team that is trying to carry plenty of momentum into the offseason and 2019. A chance to beat a division rival, therefore essentially knocking said team out of the playoffs, means all of that and then some. Draft position doesn’t matter anymore. Go ruin Baltimore’s playoff aspirations.
Gilbert: I think this game is important. I think it can set a tone for next season, beating a division rival in a game that means everything to Baltimore. The Browns have played so well over the last many weeks, but getting this victory would be the signature victory and one that really says that this franchise is ready to compete for the playoffs next season. It also would give the Browns a winning record. It means a lot.
If the outcome of the game determines who wins the AFC North, then does that change anything? Who is the Browns biggest rival?
Bode: If you don’t have one main rival… Baltimore stole the Browns and Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh. There is no way to be happy about either team winning the AFC North, so the immediate satisfaction of seeing Raven players and fans disappointed during the game is the bigger schadenfreude.
Pat: I don’t think it changes anything from the team’s perspective. I think they’ll want to hurt any division rival in the final game of the season, regardless if it’s the Steelers, Ravens, or Bengals. I still think their biggest rival is the Steelers, but I don’t think the gap is very big. We saw in the last game against the Bengals, the Browns clearly do not like that team. There was a ton of shoving, jabbering, and extra-curricular activity in that one. I like seeing the Browns have some extra juice for their division rivals as those games are the most important ones to win.
Poloha: I answered this in the previous question, but I feel like being able to knock the Ravens out of a spot in the postseason means so much more than just another win in the season finale. Although it will never make up for what happened in the late 1990s, beating Baltimore and ending their season this Sunday would be awesome. In regards to the Browns’ biggest rival, considering they have struggled for much of the last two decades, it’s tough to decide who their biggest rival is. Here’s to hoping that the Browns not only make football in Cleveland fun again, but make the Dawg Pound start to hate teams such as the Steelers and Ravens even more because it’ll now be a back-and-forth series again.
Gilbert: It does not change a thing. The Browns are out there to win it. Right now, the Cincinnati Bengals are the Browns’ biggest rivals. The Browns need to earn it and show that they are ready to be actual rivals to the top dogs, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Browns can revitalize the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but they have to show it consistently on the field, starting on Sunday against the Ravens.
What milestones or records are you tracking that could happen this week?
Bode: A winning record in the division is secure (3-1-1), but the Browns can finish with a winning record in the AFC with a win (5-5). Mayfield is three touchdowns away from the rookie season record. Nick Chubb is 28 yards away from 1000. Jarvis Landry is 126 yards away from 1,000. Myles Garrett is two sacks away from the team season sack record.
Pat: I’d probably just be repeating what Bode wrote, but Baker Mayfield going for the rookie touchdown record is the one I’m following most closely.
Poloha: Everything Bode already stated. It’s crazy that guys such as Mayfield and Chubb are so close to those milestones even though they started the season as backups.
Gilbert: I am tracking the rookie quarterback touchdown record. Baker Mayfield needs three touchdown passes to surpass Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson as the rookie with the most touchdown passes in their rookie season. It will be amazing to see it happen, especially when he would be doing it in just 13 games.
Is there anything else you are hoping to see in the last Browns game until next August?
Bode: A fun, competitive game with the playmakers showing out before the long offseason and sending the Ravens home without the playoffs too.
Pat: I’d like to see Breshad Perriman have another good game so the Browns will be more inclined to sign him to a new contract in the offseason. I’d also like to see Genard Avery have another good game and continue to be used all over the field.
Poloha: Win the damn game and being able to see a bunch of surrender cobras in Baltimore would be fun. As Pat alluded to, Perriman having a great game and leading the Browns to a victory against his former team would also be a nice little headline as well. I just want the Browns to win and don’t care how ugly or perfect it is.
Gilbert: Just another win!