Nine teams in the NFC are still legitimate playoff contenders. And despite the fact that they have been written off for weeks, the Packers are one of them. They perhaps get their biggest help yet this week as they have the fortunate task of traveling to Cleveland for the winless Browns.
Brett Hundley and the Packers are coming off their two best performances since Aaron Rodgers went down. Though only 1-1 in those games, that they were A) able to push the Super Bowl-contending Steelers to their limits and B) put up 28 and 26 points these last two weeks shows that they are not lame duck we thought they were.
The Browns, on the other hand, are reaching relegation territory at this point. They just fired Sashi Brown and it looks like they are, once again, cleaning house at season’s end. There is no security in Cleveland, no consistency and certainly no stability.
What frustrates fans in Cleveland further is that they have some bright spots. The Browns are usually competitive for stretches of the game. They have some talented defensive players like rookie Myles Garrett. DeShone Kizer has, at times, looked like he might have a future as a quarterback in the league. But these bright spots are few and far between. No matter what, the Browns are a hapless franchise. Cleveland is a virtual lock for a loss week in and week out. 0-16 is looking more and more likely every week.
That being said, there are some interesting matchups to look forward to in this one. For one, receiver Josh Gordon returned with a flourish last week, finishing with 85 yards on four catches. Rookie tight end David Njoku is coming into his own with back-to-back four-reception games. With the Packers’ secondary struggling as of late, the middle of the field could be wide open for the Cleveland passing game.
On defense, the Browns boast two top-flight players in cornerback Jason McCourty and the aforementioned Garrett. McCourty will likely shadow Davante Adams, the Packers’ top downfield target, which is an area where McCourty excels. As for Garrett, he will get perhaps his biggest test yet of his young career. Packer tackle David Bakhtiari is one of the league’s top pass-protectors. Though Garrett has show surprising strength in run defense, he has just one sack in the last four games.
Brett Hundley is limited from the pocket, that much is clear. But he has the ability to make throws when he gets on the edge and he can be productive as a runner. As long as they get a solid running game going like they have most weeks this year, they should be in good shape. The Browns’ offense has a few play-makers but they turn the ball over far too often. Throw in the added stank of the Packers needing this win to stay in playoff contention, the pick is pretty clear. Green Bay should absolutely win this one on the road.
It will likely be close for much of the game; if nothing else Cleveland at least stays in it most weeks. But the defense will hold and Green Bay will keep its head above water one more week. Just in time for Number 12 to return.
Packers 23, Browns 17
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