The Cleveland Browns took care of business against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in a game they were supposed to win. The Browns did not have a letdown before their big matchup in Pittsburgh this coming week. Cleveland controlled the game and brought home the W. Now comes the biggest game of the season and one of the biggest games for the Browns in their rivalry with the Steelers since 1999.
The game comes with so much stuff it feels like it’s the turkey on Thanksgiving. It all begins with what happened two weeks ago on Thursday night. The melee and the ensuing controversies that resulted from the fight are now making this game one of the most fierce and animated matchups in years. Both teams are jacked up for this game given what transpired a few weeks ago. Both teams feel like they have a beef with the other team. In the midst of all this emotion, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are both fighting for the playoffs. A win for either team will be huge for their playoff hopes, while a loss can put the losing team behind the eight ball for the playoff race. The rivalry is back in full force.
So, this game will define the Browns’ season in a variety of ways. First of all, it will keep the Browns’ hopes of the playoffs alive and well. A win over Pittsburgh, according to FiveThirtyEight, would increase the Browns’ playoff chances to over 50%. The game is a pivotal matchup with a team that is currently in front of them in the Wild Card standings. A win would notch both teams at 6-6 with the Browns holding the tiebreaker against the Steelers. It sets up a final stretch that holds only one game where the Browns would face a team with more than four wins this season. A 9-7 or 10-6 finish would look a lot more likely if the Browns can get this win in Pittsburgh.
But, this game also will define who the Browns are as a team going forward. There will be A LOT of emotion going into the game. It will be a physical matchup with it shading into a possible chippy one. So, the two teams will be heavily monitored by the refs. It will be tightly managed. This means the Browns must go in there with a professional attitude and not one who is trying to get revenge. They cannot get undisciplined and wild or they will suffer their early-season fate where the team kept shooting themselves in the foot and causing self-inflicting wounds. We will see how much improved this team really is in terms of their discipline and self-control.
This has all eyes on Head Coach Freddie Kitchens and his ability to lead the Browns into this game. He must instill a business-like attitude, rather than a revengeful one that many would want to lead given what has taken place over the past week or so. Kitchens has to set the tone and make this matchup all about the task at hand, winning the game. Nothing else matters. We will see what the Browns and their young coach are made of when they set foot on the field in Pittsburgh.
The game will also continue to define the Browns’ presence in the division. So far this season, the Browns are 2-0 versus the AFC North. A win versus the Steelers will really enforce their strength within the division and their ability to not be overlooked any longer by their in-division rivals.
This game will be fun. It is the biggest game the Browns have had in a long time. So much is on the line. So much emotion surrounds this matchup. It is going to be a heated game with some fireworks definitely expected. But, the winner will most likely be the one who can control their emotion and execute their business. The Browns/Steelers rivalry is back!