Like the rest of Sooner Nation and Browns Backers worldwide, we toasted the weekend performance of not only Baker Mayfield but also Nick Chubb, Antonio Callaway, Duke Johnson, Joe Schobert, David Njoku, Rashard Higgins, Myles Garrett and the entire Cleveland Browns organization.
This wasn’t Thursday night magic against the Jets.
This was a complete team win, a whipping put on a good Atlanta Falcons club.
There is no doubt that Baker Mayfield showed enormous improvement this weekend: decisive passing, better improvisation and world-class play action. However, Mayfield also had much better protection Sunday than at any other point this season. Heck, watching Oklahoma’s 48-47 win over Oklahoma State, we Sooners fans bemoaned the protection for Kyler Murray, something we don’t typically have to worry about.
The Cleveland defense with Joe Schobert and Denzel Ward both back in the lineup is a different beast altogether, especially Schobert. They take on a completely different identity with the third-year linebacker from Wisconsin. He clogs the middle.
Dare I say that if Cleveland were to play like they did in their 28-16 win over the Falcons, they could win any or all of their remaining six games.
The Browns have two games against the Bengals, who are at the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game and two spots lower than the Browns in points given up per game. Cincinnati and Cleveland are No. 30 and 32, respectively, in yards allowed per game.
And come to find out this week that the Bengals plan on hiring former Cleveland coach Hue Jackson?
Who is that supposed to help? Seriously, I’m asking.
Cleveland has a shot to win both of those games, as they do the Baltimore game. The Browns have already beaten the Ravens once, a 12-9 thriller at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 7. That game was one of four overtime games the Browns have played this season, and if you think about it, there is every possibility that the other three could have fallen Cleveland’s way, meaning they’d be 7-3 right now.
The Browns are not a bad football team fundamentally; they’re just learning to put it all together and to do it with consistency.
Cleveland has a tough two-game stretch at Houston, a team that has figured out how to put it all together, and against the Carolina Panthers at home. Both of these opponents currently sit at 6-3, and on the development scale, they’re seemingly far ahead of the Browns. However, the Texas notoriously under-achieve, and we get Cam Newton in front of the Dawg Pound.
No guarantees, but definitely not for-sure losses.
When you looked at the Browns’ chances against a Steelers team in Pittsburgh or even a hot Kansas City team at home, you had to think any win would be a significant upset. When faced with the task of beating the Texans or Panthers, the thought is — if the Browns execute like they did against Atlanta.
And if they were to somehow get past the Bengals, Texans and Panthers, a trifecta that could absolutely land the beloved orange-and-brown at 0-3 for the set, Cleveland would head to Denver for a Saturday-night showdown against the Broncos that could decide the Browns’ playoff fate.
No, I’m not drinking. This is a schedule that provides some room for hope for a club that is improving under Gregg Williams the way they’ve shown over the past couple of weeks.
Cleveland absolutely could run the table and finish 9-6-1.
If they did that, Baker Mayfield wouldn’t just be Rookie of the Year; there would be serious conversation about Baker as MVP.
But he’s not even the reason I think there’s hope for such a run.
It’s this: Cleveland’s takeaway-giveaway ratio is +12, second only to the Chicago Bears.
It’s also this: The Browns are third in the NFL in total rushing yardage and sixth in yards per game at 133.2.
It helps when your running back is also an awesome rookie:
Forget what the crazy blogger man here thinks. Take those two stats seriously. Being able to run the ball and being able to force some turnovers will keep you in ball games.
And then you have a coach who nobody believes would be given a shot at the gig full-time, a Kansas City boy named Gregg Williams looking for redemption after running afoul of league rules in New Orleans. You watch him make a speech like this and wonder if, really, Cleveland hasn’t found their guy:
Williams didn’t add “in miracles” to the end of his question. He just asked the team, “Do You Believe?”
In the process. In the details. In the coaching staff. In each other.
Belief is a powerful drug. Add that to a +12 takeaway/giveaway ratio and an ability to run the ball well, and the Browns are going to have more of a chance in each of these games than virtually anybody will give them credit for.