It always feels weird on Sunday’s when your team is on the bye. You already have your routine down to catch the game every week, and then, boom the NFL hits you with a bye week. For the Browns, the off-week comes at a perfect time. Coming off of an ugly loss the the Las Vegas Raiders 16-6, in FirstEnergy Stadium no less. The Browns are hopeful to regain some reinforcements for next week’s contest at home versus the Texans. With that we dive into the the bye week news, including some injury news.
Baker Mayfield Placed on Reserve/COVID-19 List
The Browns released a statement on Saturday explaining Mayfield’s presence on the reserve/COVID-19 list:
“The Cleveland Browns were informed Saturday morning that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing was conducted and close contacts were immediately self-isolated. When the team returns to work following the bye on Monday, it will follow the NFL-NFLPA intensive protocol. We will continue to work closely with the league and medical experts on the appropriate next steps with the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff members remaining our highest priority.” (CBS)
To be placed on this list, you need to have either tested positive for the virus, or been in close contact with someone who had tested positive. For the Browns and Mayfield it was the latter. Luckily for the Browns, Mayfield could be cleared as early as Wednesday if he continues to test negative. This is more of a pre-cautionary action by the Browns. By putting Mayfield on the list, he will not be around any teammates, and will self-isolate until he hopefully returns on Wednesday. In other words, don’t worry too much Browns fans, his status for the week 10 game vs the Texans is not in doubt quite yet.
Browns Are Hopeful Running Back Nick Chubb can Return in Week 10
Ian Rapoport released a report early Sunday morning that Nick Chubb is poised to return to play after the bye week. This is a huge emotionally upswing for Browns fans and players. If you don’t remember, Chubb suffered a sprained MCL late in the first quarter of the Browns win at Dallas. Chubb has been resting and rehabilitating for the past four weeks. Before Chubb went down, he had 335 rushing yards on only 57 carries. That’s an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Chubb was third in the NFL in rushing before he went down.
Browns Fan’s Rooting Guide for the Bye Week
Sitting at 5-3, the Browns are in a good position to start thinking about post-season play. There are a couple of games that Browns fans can keep their eyes on, thinking about playoff positioning. Here’s a couple of games to keep your eye on this weekend if your a Browns fan.
- Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts: Both of these teams sit at 5-2 coming into the game. Therefore the loser of this game will be tied with the Browns for seeding in the AFC. The Browns have played both of these teams already this year. They lost to the Ravens in the season opener embarrassingly 38-6. However they have already beaten the Colts 32-23 in week five. This means that if the Ravens win the Browns will be bumped up to the number six seed in the AFC. If the Colts can find a way to lock down the Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense, the Browns will stay at the number seven seed. However, in the latter scenario, the Browns would have a chance to control their own destiny with a rematch versus the Ravens, at FirstEnergy Stadium.
- Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: After winning a sloppy, ugly game vs the Browns last Sunday, the Raiders sit at 4-3. They are the Browns closest competitor when it comes to the last wild-card spot. Jon Gruden and the Raiders own the tie-breaker over the Browns, so Cleveland fans should be Chargers fans this weekend.
- Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons: The Broncos are 3-4, which leaves them in striking distance for the last wild-card berth. Go Falcons.
- Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans: Mike Vrabel and his Tennessee Titans sit at 5-2, atop the leader board in the AFC South. The bigger story here is that the Titans own the tie-breaker over the Colts. The Bears are an NFC opponent, so a win for them would help out the Browns a lot, especially if Tennessee goes on to win the AFC South.
- Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals: As is the story with Tennessee, it helps the Browns when an AFC Competitor loses to an NFC team. Miami, and newly appointed starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, are 4-3. A Miami win would make the Browns route to the playoffs much murkier.
Other News and Notes From This Week in Berea
- Not only are the Browns hoping for a return from Nick Chubb, they also could be getting back tight end Austin Hooper, who is returning from an appendectomy. Hooper was on the field for practice last Wednesday, so he should be fine to play against the Texans in week 10. Before Hooper went down, he had 22 catches for 205 yards and one touchdown. While he’s been out, its been more and more evident how integral he is in the passing game.
- The Browns still lead the NFL in takeaways through eight games. Joe Woods, and his defense have 14 takeaways. That number ties for the NFL lead with three other teams: Kansas City, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. If the Browns being named among those teams for the lead in the NFL means anything, it is that the Browns may be a true playoff competitor this year. The Buccaneers are 6-2, the Seahawks are 6-1, and the Chiefs are 7-1. If the Browns can keep up this play after the bye week, they should be squarely in the mix for the playoffs.
- As the NFL Trade Deadline came and went on Tuesday, the Browns still had a good amount of holes to fill. However, when the deadline ended at 4 PM Eastern on Tuesday, the Browns did not make any moves. The Browns could use upgrades at free safety, linebacker, and wide receiver. In the deadline preview article, some names were thrown around to help the Browns during the stretch. Around the league there were murmurs the Browns might try and acquire Will Fuller or Curtis Samuel at receiver, and Anthony Harris or Justin Simmons at free safety. With rosters set now, the Browns front office is hoping the team as is can keep winning and be in the thick of the playoff race.
- Part of the reason the Browns stood pat at the deadline was because they will need to start paying their stars some big bucks. In July the Browns signed Myles Garrett to a 5-year contract extension worth around $125 million, with a $50 million signing bonus and $100 million in guaranteed money. With Garrett signed and sealed, the Browns now look to sign Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward to contract extensions before their current contract comes to an end in 2023. Finally, Baker Mayfield is also due to see a contract extension before 2023, that is if the Browns intend to go forward with Mayfield under center.
- Finally, we obviously never cheer for injuries, but the Browns dodged a huge bullet this off-season by passing on signing Jadaveon Clowney. Clowney eventually signed with Mike Vrabel and the Titans. He is inactive this week with a knee injury. Clowney has also been held without a sack in his first year with Tennessee. It also helps that Olivier Vernon has stepped up in recent weeks, including having to sacks in the Raiders game.
Through eight games in 2019, the Browns had a 2-6 record with wins over the Ravens (shocker) and the lowly New York Jets. Comparing last year to 2020, should be a beacon of hope for Browns players, staff, and fans. With the Browns being 5-3, it sure seems like fans are disappointed for some reason. Maybe it is because Baker Mayfield has been up and down from week to week, or the fact that the defense has so many holes. However, with their current record, the Browns can definitely start hoping for a playoff berth, even in the competitive AFC North. Looking at the Browns remaining schedule, the Browns could end up with eleven wins. Coming off of the bye week the Browns host the Texans and Eagles, play at Jacksonville and Tennessee, with the stretch run consisting of home rematches with the Ravens and Steelers, and playing at both New York teams.
Just looking at that schedule it’s possible the Browns could win at the Giants, at the Jets, home versus Houston and the Eagles, and at Jacksonville. In that scenario the Browns would finish with a 10-6 record. With that the Browns aren’t guaranteed a playoff birth, but their chances would be good. The Browns also get help from the league as they implemented a new playoff system, where their are seven teams in each conference make the playoffs. The number one-seed would have a bye, and the 2-seed would host the 7-seed, the 3-seed would host the 6-seed, and the 4-seed would host the fifth seed.
The Browns stand pat right now with a 5-3 record, meaning if the playoffs started today, the Browns would travel to Kansas City to play the reigning Super Bowl Champions during wild-card weekend. While that is not the match-up the Browns were hoping for, but it at least puts them in the playoff.
With all of that being said, the Browns need to have a strong second-half to stay in the playoff picture. Austin Hooper and possibly Nick Chubb should immediately help the Browns offense. A fun stat to head into the week: Kevin Stefanski was able to notch more wins through five weeks than previous head coach Hue Jackson. It took Hue Jackson three years to get three wins while coaching the Browns. In his first year the Browns won one game, in his second year they went winless, and he was 2-5-1 in 2018 before getting fired. Just keep that in mind Browns fans, no matter what happens, at least they are through the Hue Jackson era.
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