Are the Cleveland Browns a legitimate playoff threat in the AFC?

Cleveland Browns, NFL


The Cleveland Browns moved to 2-2-1 with an overtime victory over the Ravens, so now we have to ask: Is this team a playoff threat?

There are many reasons to be optimistic after a 12-9 win for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday over the division-rival Ravens.

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is becoming more comfortable leading this offense and making the right play, and it showed, as he threw for 342 yards despite just 12 points for Cleveland. The win also put the Browns just 2.5 games back in the AFC North and one back in the wild card race five games into the season.

But more than anything: This team looks good. Like, actually good, not just good when grading on a curve for a team that won a single game the last two seasons and is putting its hope in a rookie quarterback.

Cleveland forced Baltimore into two turnovers Sunday and blocked a field goal. The defense kept them in this game, led by Denzel Ward, Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins Sr. This was actually not altogether different from the Browns’ loss last week in terms of the wild swings in momentum and big plays.

Mayfield completed five passes of 20 yards or more, and had a 16-yard run down the sideline on third-and-5 turned around because of a holding penalty on left tackle Desmond Harrison. The offense was clicking in a way it hasn’t before.

The last two weeks, though Mayfield and the Browns looked impressive, the offense reeked of group still learning together. Mayfield didn’t have rhythm with any specific guys, and they weren’t able to dominate the likes of Oakland or the Jets the way they could have.

Now, Cleveland is within spitting distance of the Ravens and Steelers in the division and finally making use of their incredible talent. They’ve exceeded their win total from the last two seasons combined, with a favorable schedule the next two weeks.

If Mayfield can lead the Browns to victory over the Chargers and Buccaneers, the team will head to Pittsburgh in Week 8 at 4-2-1, with a chance to gain more ground in the division and the playoff race.



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