With only sixteen games in an NFL season, a 2-4 start isn’t ideal. It isn’t quite like baseball where that constitutes a tough first week. Each game in the NFL holds incredible significance in the final standings. With the Baltimore Ravens defeating the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, it has put an incredible amount of pressure on the Cleveland Browns to right the ship quickly.
Heading into game number seven on the season the Browns have yet to firmly establish a firm identity on the football field. Inconsistency doesn’t even begin to describe what they have put on display so far. Both of the Browns’ wins have been very lopsided affairs. Their victory over the Ravens in week four might have been the most complete team victory the Browns have enjoyed. The week two win over the Jets was completely dominated by the Browns defense. The losses to the Titans and 49ers were as embarrassing as the wins were dominant. Mix in a heartbreaker where the team fails to convert numerous opportunities to win and blowing a sizable early lead against the Seahawks the games have been all over the map this season.
While these results are par for the course as far as the Browns recent history is concerned, the 2019 Browns have a roster full of proven talent. I don’t think that anyone is satisfied with what that has produced so far. There are valid excuses that can be made on the Browns behalf this season, but results are the name of the game. One firm indication of how the season is going is the weekly narrative. The Browns have enjoyed weeks worth of narratives revolving around player’s watches, visors and comments made in press conferences. They haven’t enjoyed the number of highlight packages and football questions that accompany winning.
The latest narrative involves an alleged misquote from Jarvis Landry by a Browns beat reporter that is currently being used as bulletin board material for the undefeated New England Patriots. Not exactly an ideal lead-in to one of the season’s biggest games. A win versus the Patriots is quite a hurdle to overcome to avoid digging an even bigger hole to climb out of the second half of the season. A win versus the Patriots could also be a catapult for kicking a team in gear just in time to enter a more favorable part of their schedule going forward. A loss versus the Patriots and you are looking at a Browns team that will likely need to win eight of its final nine games to have any chance of seeing the postseason.
On Baker Mayfield’s best days he can beat anyone including the Patriots. Coming off the bye the Browns should be well-rested while the Patriots are coming off a short week of preparation. Also at this junction of the season, the Browns could be a strange trap game for them. Since Mayfield has played well for about 5 quarters this season he is making himself very easy to sleep on this season. The majority of the rest of the season has been a struggle for Mayfield. Some of the elements that made him great in his rookie season has yet to surface. Mayfield is past due for a clean game and the Patriots defense is past due for a letdown. An upset against the defending champions could be a huge confidence boost for Mayfield who right now has struggled with accuracy, pocket presence, turnovers and red zone efficiency all season long.
Another catalyst to victory could be the defensive line. A unit that has had its moments this season needs to have their best game of the year. The Patriots offense has been a revolving door at wide receiver. With this much turnover, a good pass rush could disrupt a team needing to build chemistry with some new pieces. With both starting cornerbacks returning to the lineup after extended absences the defensive line will also have a bit of backup. Limiting Brady’s targets and moving him out of the pocket is the key to defeating him, and the defense is built on paper to do that. Obviously doing it on the field is something completely different. If the Browns really want to be mentioned alongside the top teams in the NFL, this is the week to start.