The thought of the Browns making the postseason has completely gone out the window. The thought that this team was eliminated from playoff contention in late December and not mid-October is a story. Most coaches tend to rest starters in Week 17 for reasons such as injury prevention to protect their stars before the postseason and to not risk injuries that could affect next year. With that said, the question now becomes do the Browns play their starters? And should they treat their Week 17 match-up with the Ravens like a playoff game?
As of now, we don’t know what to expect from the Browns in terms of whether they will take the risk of playing their stars knowing that their season is over. Or, will the Browns try to finish strong and try to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs. If the Browns, in fact, do beat the Ravens, they will finish the season 8-7-1, which would give them their first winning season since 2007. The win would also give the Browns a division record of 4-1-1. Finishing the season with a win over their rivals could give the Browns an even bigger boost of confidence going into next season.
A Browns in terms could put a stamp on what many would consider the feel-good story of 2018. A team that did win a single game a year ago now has a chance to win eight games. Baker Mayfield could seal his case for Rookie of the Year by beating the Ravens for the second time. Baker has completely turned the team around with his determination and will to win. Knowing the competitor that Baker is, most know he will play knowing what the stakes are for the Ravens.
Four teams (Ravens, Steelers, Colts, and Titans) are impacted by what happens in the game between the Browns/Ravens. It has made the game so crucial that the NFL moved the game down to the 4:25 p.m. so it could get more national coverage. From the Ravens stand-point, it’s déjà vu. Last year, the Ravens were eliminated on the final day of the season by the Bengals which sent the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs. The Ravens will also look to revenge their early season overtime loss to the Browns. So much is on the line in this game, though the Browns are not playoff bound. They do hold the key for four other teams.
To give a movie trailer style ending to this story: what will happen December 30th when the Browns invade Baltimore? Will they just hand in the game to Ravens knowing their season is in terms? Or will Baker Mayfield and the Browns spoil the Ravens’ season? Only time will tell……………..