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By Adam Brooks
With the Cleveland Browns recent win over the Jets and their tough showing against the New Orleans Saints, and tie ball game at Heinz Field, people are starting to ask, ‘do the Browns have a chance?’ But instead of jumping at a quick yes or no, the immediate response should be, ‘well, a chance at what?’
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Cleveland is still dead-last on the oddsboards to win the AFC North at Bovada, a top betting site according to its review. And they are way back at 40/1 to win the AFC. So if the questions is: do they have a chance at making it to the Super Bowl this season? The answer is a resounding no. Do they have a chance at winning the AFC North? That is also a firm no. Do they have a chance to get a few wins under their belts and turn this horribly unfortunate franchise around? In this question we get our affirmative answer.
The Browns are currently projected to win 5.5 games on the season by the books in Las Vegas. Hitting six wins will be tough with their stout remaining schedule. However, it is possible, especially if they can gain a little momentum and confidence by taking a win of Gruden and the Raiders in Week 4 to set the stage for a tough stretch of the Ravens, Chargers, Steelers, and Chiefs.
Let’s start by saying that yes, it’s possible. The Browns could potentially make the #6 seed and get the last wildcard spot. According to the predictive power rankings based off of current performance and remaining schedule, the Cleveland Browns have a 16.6% chance at a playoff berth. Which isn’t great, but it’s better than the chances for:
● The Oakland Raiders at 7.0%
● The Buffalo Bills at 6.5%
● The San Francisco 49ers at 8.8%
● The Arizona Cardinals at 1.5%
● The Houston Texans at 15.7%
So instead of the Browns being at the very bottom of the barrel, they are just in the bottom sixth of the league. The Lions and the Giants are not sitting much better at just 16.9% and 18% respectively. And this is all a moving calculus. If the Browns get a couple of wins and some other teams take some unexpected losses, these percentages of playoff probability will adjust accordingly.
Are the Browns throwing Baker Mayfield into the pot half-baked? After the Cleveland organization claimed that they would not start him at all this year and that they would take their time in developing him and protecting him, they change their tune and decide to throw him into the starting lineup in Week 4.
Sure, he played well against a decent Jets secondary for half of a game. His arm strength and accuracy were pretty phenomenal. However, Tyrod didn’t play too poorly. The first Jets score came off of a blocked punt in the Red Zone and then later in the second half the Crowell was able to pound another in on the ground. Let’s remember that Mayfield was absolutely saved by his left guard, Joel Bitonio after he was stripped and fumbled the ball just a few plays after his entrance into the game. And the Cleveland defense set Mayfield and Carlos Hyde up quite well. Moreover, the play-calling that got Baker Mayfield a TD reception was pretty flashy, but the sample size is too small to definitively say that Mayfield should be the starter over Taylor at this point.
After a quick stumble out of the gate, Darnold had a pretty great first game as well. That said, now that he has faced a couple of good defenses, he has looked pretty bad. Hopefully for Cleveland fans, Hue Jackson isn’t jumping the gun with Mayfield and the Browns get a few more wins.
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