Browns are the playoff contender no one wants to play right now

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns, playoff contenders? With their third straight win on Sunday over the Miami Dolphins, it’s actually true.

The Cleveland Browns weren’t thinking about the big 272 pound hole in their defensive line this week. They weren’t even going to talk about it. All they did was go out on Sunday and prove to the league that they are now playoff contenders.

The Browns triumphed over the hapless Miami Dolphins at FirstEnergy Stadium 41-24, winning their third consecutive game and improving to 5-6 on the season and within sight of the franchise’s first playoff berth in 17 years. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had his best game of the season, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns put away the Dolphins early.

Jarvis Landry, playing his first game against his former team, opened the scoring five minutes into the game by hauling in a seven-yard pass from Mayfield. Not to be outdone, his teammate Odell Beckham caught his first touchdown since Week 2 with a 35-yard score at the end of the first quarter. Landry added another touchdown in the second quarter and Kareem Hunt found the end zone for the first time in a Browns uniform as Cleveland took a 28-3 lead into the half. It was their biggest halftime lead since Week 14 in 1991 when Bill Belichick was in his first year as head coach.

The Browns held off a Dolphins comeback as birthday boy Ryan Fitzpatrick led Miami to within 11 in the second half. Cleveland reached the 40-point plateau for the second time this season, the first time they’ve done that since 2007.

The Browns could’ve been excused for looking past the now 2-9 Dolphins to their rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday. It was just 10 days ago that the matchup between the two AFC North rivals ended with Myles Garrett ripping the helmet off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and swinging it at him.

Garrett was suspended indefinitely, while Rudolph was fined but not suspended. Losing their Pro Bowl edge rusher could’ve been a big blow to the Browns chances, but head coach Freddie Kitchens insisted after today’s game that his team wasn’t focused on it.

The Browns are now a game out of a playoff spot and with their schedule clearing up.

They’ve already played six of the top 10 defenses in the NFL so far this season, but after next week’s game in Pittsburgh, they still have two games against the 0-11 Bengals (28th ranked defense) and a game against the worst-ranked defense in the Arizona Cardinals. Only the red-hot Baltimore Ravens will present them with the same type of challenge they’re becoming familiar with when they host them in Week 16, but the Browns already hung up 40 points on John Harbaugh’s group back in Week 4.

Three weeks ago the Browns were coming off a home loss to the Denver Broncos to fall to 2-6, they’re playoff hopes bleak at best. Since 1990, no team has made the postseason after starting the season losing six of their first eight games. But now that Mayfield is beginning to look again like a franchise quarterback, and Landry and Beckham are finding their stride in this offense, things are looking up in Cleveland for a change.

Next: Eagles have to figure it out with Carson Wentz

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