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Dawg Pound Report: The Browns Make the Playoffs For the First Time in 18 Years, and Everything That Could Go Wrong, Has

Sunday afternoon was like something from a dream. The Browns played their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Sunday afternoon. The game was tight throughout, but a Baker Mayfield designed run on third down and six with just over a minute to play, sealed the game and the playoffs for the Cleveland Browns. The final score of the game was 24-22 as the Browns sealed the victory with a two-point conversion stop, to leave the Steelers down two.

Browns Clinch Playoffs For First Time Since 2002

The fans were happy, and the city was alive like it was when the Cavs shocked the world in 2016, and took home the NBA Championship. However, just as soon as the party began, bad news started to flow in from everywhere.

Browns Events Since Beating the Steelers 24-22 On Sunday To Clinch a Spot in the Playoffs

  • On Tuesday, the Browns announced that Head Coach, and possibly a candidate for NFL Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski had tested positive for COVID-19, and will miss Sunday’s Wild-Card Playoff Game. Two other players and two other coaches tested positive as well.
  • It was announced that along with Stefanski, pro-bowl starting left guard Joel Bitonio also tested positive and will miss the Steelers game. The other Browns player who tested positive was KhaDarel Hodge, a wide receiver.
  • Along with the announcement and closing of the facility on Tuesday, the Browns also confirmed that without head coach Kevin Stefanski on the sidelines, Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays, and the acting head coach will be special teams coach Mike Preifer.
  • Also on Tuesday, Receiver Rashard Higgins and Rookie Left Tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. were caught and cited for drag racing in Westlake, Ohio, about 10 minutes from the practice facility in Berea. The players were off on Tuesday
  • On top of that, Stefanski announced after the win on Sunday that defensive lineman Olivier Vernon had torn his Achilles and will miss the rest of the season. He will have surgery at some point in the near future according to Stefanski.

The Browns barely got by the Steelers on Sunday when they were playing mostly backups. The Browns defense won’t see Mason Rudolph out there on Sunday, they will see Ben Roethlisberger, who, before the season, was the quarterback who led all other quarterbacks for wins in First Energy Stadium, until Baker Mayfield broke that embarrassing record this year when he won his 12th game on the Lake Erie Shoreline.

According to ESPN, the Steelers have almost a 70% chance to win this game, and Vegas backs that theory up by naming the Steelers a four point favorite. However, with that being said, I’m seeing a lot of writers in the media world predicting a Browns close fought victory. For example this was written by Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network:

“The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers meet for the third time this season in what should be the most hotly anticipated clash of Wild Card weekend. After holding out in a nerve-wracking season finale, can the Browns sneak past the Steelers? Will Ben Roethlisberger return to the team, and to form, and keep Pittsburgh in the playoffs? It feels like a long time since the Steelers were imperiously marching their way to an unbeaten season. They’ve lost four of their last five. While it feels like a trap to bet against them based on those performances, there is no doubt that they’re not as convincing as their record suggests. The Browns, meanwhile, can be exceptional and infuriating on any given Sunday. Baker Mayfield fluctuates between brilliant and banal from week to week. However, Nick Chubb has been consistently superb throughout. He opened the scoring in the season finale with a 47-yard touchdown run, and he can be the hero for the Browns next Sunday.” (Oliver Hodgkinson of Pro Football Network)

Pat Fiutak also wrote some more good things about the Browns when predicting they would win this wild-card match-up 27-24:

“Very, very nervous that Pittsburgh is one of those teams that just needed to get to this point, and then the machine turns on. The offense will still have issues, but that defense has the ability rise up and take out anyone in the tournament. It’s not happening here. The Steeler offense will come out blazing with a great first drive, and that will be about it. Cleveland will get a good enough ground game to take the pressure off of Baker Mayfield, and the lack of any Steeler running attack will be the deathblow.” (Pat Fiutak, College Football News)

This Sunday’s game has also been flexed into the Sunday Night Prime Time Spot, as this should be one of the biggest games when it comes to story lines. However, the Browns just made the playoffs for the first time since I was a child, can the sun just shine on the Browns one time? Just one time.

Browns Playoff Hype

*Also a little side-note, the Browns play on Sunday Night at 8:15 PM ET, and the Buckeyes play in the National Championship on Monday night. Could be a great two days for Ohio, or miserable. Either way, it’ll be an eventful two days.

Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE

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