It was a good week for the AFC North with every team in the division coming out on top. A week ago, only the Cleveland Browns won their game—and how often have we been able to say that over the past half-decade? Over the past two days, however, each came out with a big victory.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ was the biggest of all, but that’s our bread and butter on the site, so let’s focus on the Browns for now. They just won their fourth game out of the past and actually have a chance to post a winning record if they are able to win their final two games and go 8-7-1.
Why is that significant? Well, they haven’t had a winning record—or even a non-losing record—since 2007. Every year from 2008 through 2017, they have posted a losing record, the high-water mark being 7-9 in 2014. Incredibly enough, they were 7-4 that year before losing their final five games.
Much of it has to so with Baker Mayfield, their rookie first-overall draft pick, under center, who is now 5-6 as a starter and should be 6-6, as he was responsible for the comeback drive against the New York Jets back in Week Three that gave the franchise their first win since 2016.
In 12 games, Mayfield has now completed 260 of 407 pass attempts for just under 64 percent, throwing for over 3000 yards with 21 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions while averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt with a quarterback rating of 92.6.
The Browns could hardly have expected better for their new franchise quarterback, who has ended up with a supporting cast that is much different than originally envisioned after the franchise traded two of their top three wide receivers in Josh Gordon (who has become the Patriots’ leading receiver) and Corey Coleman (who is just gaining ground with the Giants).
Add in Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Jabrill Peppers, Denzel Ward, and a host of other young players, and you are looking at a good young nucleus of talent under the eyes of Jon Dorsey and whoever their next head coach will be, which could be Gregg Williams.
This is the latest in the season that the Browns have yet to be eliminated from the playoffs since 2014—and this time, unlike then, they are actually a team on the rise. There hasn’t been this much reason for optimism about this team in years.
What does that say about 2019? It’s obviously too early to say, but perhaps for once those who actually put them in the discussion to compete for a division title may finally end up not looking ridiculous halfway through the season.
The Browns have two final games against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. If they can knock off both of their division rivals again, they’ll have a 4-1-1 division record.