We’re still feeling a mile high after the Browns’ win over the Panthers, but there’s work to be done -- starting in Mile High -- if Cleveland wants to keep the good vibes going.
We’re knocking out five of your questions before it’s travel time to Denver.
If Cincy beats Pittsburgh the last game and we beat Cincy and the Ravens, will we be in the playoffs? -- Harry W., Ohio
Let’s preface the following discussion with two things. One, the Browns’ odds of making the playoffs are slim. New York Times’ The Upshot puts the chances at 10 percent -- and that’s if the Browns run the table. Two, the Browns have to run the table with wins over Denver, Cincinnati and Baltimore. That’s non-negotiable.
Even though the odds are steep, the path is relatively clear when it comes to winning the AFC North -- something the Browns haven’t done since it came into existence in 2002. On top of the Browns winning out, they’d need the Steelers to lose out and the Ravens to go, at best, 1-2 over their final three games. That would, of course, include a loss to Cleveland in the season finale. Pittsburgh has a home game with New England this week, is on the road at New Orleans next week and wraps up with a home game against the Bengals. The Upshot puts the odds of this path at 7 percent.
Securing the final Wild Card is much more complicated but has similar odds. There are five teams currently ahead of Cleveland for the No. 6 seed -- Baltimore (7-6), Miami (7-6), Tennessee (7-6), Indianapolis (7-6) and Denver (6-7). Beating Denver as part of winning out would take care of itself. Then, the Browns would need the other four teams to go 1-2 or worse over the next three games. Thanks to the tie Cleveland picked up in Week 1, messy tiebreakers likely won’t be an issue (outside of the Steelers, who own the head-to-head advantage). It’s a tall ask, but that’s the situation in which Cleveland finds itself.
It sure beats how December’s felt around here the past few years.
Oklahoma has no NFL teams and Mayfield is my guy, so I am a Cleveland fan knowing Mayfield will be a Browns QB until he retires. Question is the Browns are good at almost every position except field goal kicker. What round should the Browns draft a kicker at? -- Robert W., Norman, Oklahoma
We welcome you to the Browns fan base, Robert. It’s growing exponentially. That said, I’m going to disagree with you about Greg Joseph.
Since the Browns acquired Joseph, he’s connected on 13-of-15 on field goals with one of those misses coming from 55 yards. He’s 18-of-21 on extra points. The latter needs to be better, but missed extra points are becoming more and more common throughout the league. He’s been a steadying presence at the position since the Browns made a move after Week 2. Perhaps more importantly, Joseph hasn’t affected the team’s strategy on fourth downs where a long field goal makes more sense than going for it. He made two field goals from 40+ yards Sunday against the Panthers and has five from that distance on the season.
The Browns will look to add competition to the position during the offseason -- just like they do with every position on the roster -- and the draft very well could be the way. Something to consider: Drafting kickers can be tricky, and the Browns know this firsthand. Miami’s Jason Sanders, who was selected in the 7th round of this past year’s draft, is the only kicker since 2013 to still be a member of the team that drafted him. You have to go all the way back to Greg Zuerlein with the Rams, a 2012 draft pick, to find another one.
Myles Garrett has been penalized a lot in his short career for being offsides. I know he wants to get to the quarterback but those penalties are costly. Does anyone on the staff talk to him about it? -- Neal N., Mundelein, Illinois
According to NFLPenalties.com, Garrett has been flagged for offsides seven times this season. That may seem like a lot, but it’s a common penalty for pass rushers as dangerous as Garrett. Pass rushers rely on a strong get-off, and timing the snap count is a huge component of it. Sometimes, you’re going to jump a little early. A penalty is never ideal, and Garrett will look to lower that number in the future, but the positives of what he’s bringing to the table far outweighs the negatives. He’s 1.5 sacks away from the team record and sits third in the NFL with his 12.5 sacks on the season. The Browns will take a 5-yard penalty here and there if it means Garrett is getting the right get-off on a snap that results in a game-changing play.
I’m not ready to say it changes the needs because the Browns will look to address the wide receiver position and a variety of others in what should be a vitally important offseason. I’ll just go as far as saying Perriman has been a heck of a pleasant surprise. Drops and injuries were problems for Perriman at the start of his career but neither have been an issue since he joined the Browns. The insertion of Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator has been a boon for Perriman, who is playing roughly 15-20 snaps a game. Perriman has posted two catches in all but one of the games since Kitchens took over the play-calling, and an argument can be made that he made two of the biggest this past week against the Panthers.
“A guy with that kind of size and that kind of speed of course has an impact when he has the ball in his hands,” Kitchens said. “I like physical, big guys like that that can play and that seem to enjoy playing the game. It is all about playing the game with those guys. When you have a guy that loves the game of football, of course that is an advantage.”