Last Saturday night the Cleveland Browns traveled to Houston Texas to kick off the NFL Super Wildcard Weekend and play the Houston Texans. The Browns went into this game as a 2.5-point road favorite. This is the Browns’ third playoff appearance since the expansion era of 1999. This playoff team felt different than the last two Browns playoff teams.
To be more precise, the 2023 Cleveland Browns felt special. For a team to endure all the injuries they had and still win 11 regular season games is spectacular. It can be argued that the team came together back in the early training camp. They started their camp at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. As the 2023 season progressed, so did this team. The numbers and stats do not lie.
The Cleveland Browns had the number-one-ranked defense in the NFL. Many pundits said that this defense was elite. The offense since Joe Flacco took over as starting quarterback had flourished. In the last six weeks of the season, the Browns offense led the NFL with plays of 20 yards or more with 29 explosive plays. Flacco scored 13 touchdowns in five weeks. If you pair that with an elite defense, the Browns were a tough team to face in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the game did not play out that way. The Browns were trailing the Texans at halftime 24-14. The defense opened the 3rd quarter with a defensive stop. And that is where the game unraveled. Joe Flacco then followed that with two consecutive drives that ended with interceptions returned for touchdowns. With what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Browns were down by 24 points. Houston added an early 4th quarter touchdown to give the final score of 45-14. The disappointing game was not only on Joe Flacco. The Browns defense did not tackle well and gave up way too many big plays. On that day Houston was the better team. The question now is how the 2024 offseason looks for the Cleveland Browns.
It is expected that the Cleveland Browns will have back the key players that were lost by injuries in 2023. According to the website OvertheCap.com the Browns are over the salary cap by $12,699.866. This can be managed by contract restructuring and potential cuts of underperforming players. It is not the end of the world. The salary cap is expected to increase too. The Cleveland Browns do have ways to improve and build upon the success from 2023. Even though this is the last draft without a 1st round pick. The Cleveland Browns still have eight draft picks in the 2024 NFL Draft and their first pick is in the 2nd round. Trades and free agency are viable options as well to improve the team. The biggest asset this team has this upcoming off-season is a stable organization with a plan.
Since early 2020, the Cleveland Browns have had in place their head coach and general manager. Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry have changed the culture and brought stability to the Cleveland Browns. The future is here for the Cleveland Browns and I will continue to enjoy it.