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News & Notes: Browns still have 'business to handle' despite long playoff odds

The Browns understand where they sit in the playoff race but aren’t taking their foot off the gas


With four games left in the regular season, the Browns don't need any reminders about where they stand in the playoff race. They know the odds are low — less than one percent — and they know they haven't performed up to the level of most AFC teams who are still in the playoff hunt.

The season has contained plenty of disappointment, which grew after another costly loss Sunday to the Bengals that dropped their record to 5-8, but there's still a belief among players that they have something to play for to end the season.

Four games is enough to build a strong finish and increase hope for next season, when the Browns already know they'll need a much-improved record for the year to be successful. They can still play spoiler to possible playoff teams left on their schedule, starting with Saturday's matchup with the Ravens, who are 9-4 and also in need of a decent finish to the season to crack the playoffs.

The Browns hope to put a dent in those plans, which is perhaps one of the biggest motivators they have for this week.

"We're trying to beat the Ravens," G Joel Bitonio said. We understand and we didn't shy away from where we are. (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski has told us straight up and he understands, and we understand where we are. It's unfortunate, but we understand we have business to handle."

Beyond this week, the Browns can still play spoiler to the Saints, who are 4-9 but still in playoff contention due to a struggling NFC South conference. Then, they go on the road against the Commanders, who are 7-5-1 and in strong contention for a wild card spot in the NFC.

Will wins in all of those games propel the Browns back into the playoff conversation? It's highly unlikely. Winning out to finish the season won't guarantee a playoff spot with the Raiders (5-8), Jaguars (5-8), Jets (7-6) and Chargers (7-6) all out of a playoff spot but ahead of the Browns in the hunt.

But playing spoiler — and playing in the NFL, period — is still something to play for.

"At the end of the day, as competitors you always want to win," CB Greg Newsome said. "You're just trying to go one game at a time and get a win. No matter what, like I said, our goal is to win out. After that, we will see what happens. We have to take it one day at a time and one game at a time, and we are going to approach it as such."

Check out photos of the throwback white facemasks the Browns will wear on their helmets for their Week 15 game against the Ravens.

Watson cool with the cold

QB Deshaun Watson will make his home debut Saturday in his third start with the Browns.

He'll also receive a strong first taste of what it's like to play in Cleveland in December.

Kickoff temperatures for the game are expected to be around 34 degrees, according to Accuweather, with winds around 17 mph that could push the real feel temperature to 20 degrees. It'll certainly be cold, but Watson doesn't expect it to shake him.

"It's a little chilly, but when I'm on the field, I'll just be so locked in on football," he said with a smile. "I won't be worried about the weather."

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt knows a thing or two about being a QB in the cold — he played for the Bills during the frigid winters in Buffalo from 1995-2003. Any advice?

"Yeah, keep your hands warm," he said. "I've made mistakes before of not wearing sleeves and trying to be a tough guy. You've got to stay warm and you have to be comfortable and have a good system for keeping your hands warm."

Why Browns didn't kick it before halftime

Much to the chagrin of K Cade York, the Browns opted to go with a Hail Mary play before halftime against the Bengals instead of a 67-yard field goal attempt. York looked visibly upset over not being able to attempt the kick and provide a true test for his leg strength, and had the Browns opted for the field-goal, it would've been a record-breaking attempt to surpass Ravens K Justin Tucker's all-time record of his 66-yard conversion last season.

The Hail Mary was unsuccessful, but there still weren't any regrets from special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who offered a poignant explanation of why they decided not to kick.

"I'm looking at the yard line, and I told (Head) Coach (Kevin Stefanski) what I thought was a good yard line to get to. We weren't quite there yet. Cade is over there campaigning, which I love. I love the competitiveness of the young guy. I kind of chuckled. Somebody said I was laughing, but I was smiling because I was pleased that he wanted to kick that, but he doesn't look at the big picture of we have to cover with a lot of big people against a return man, they are going to put a guy deep like we would underneath the goal post and if he is short, they are going to bring it back.

"That is a hard thing to cover. We have two D-linemen on our field goal unit, we have six offensive linemen on our field goal unit and we have a snapper, a holder and a kicker. It's going to be tough to cover with those guys against a good returner. That's why I'm glad that we didn't kick that in that situation. A game-winner, obviously, you have to. I think we were close on the Hail Mary. I think the percentages say go with the Hail Mary there. Maybe, if it's 5 yards closer, maybe we go for it."

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