It’s the little things, right?
Anyone catch the Dolphins-Bills game on Thursday night? A few times during the broadcast the NFL Network showed the AFC Playoff picture because both the Dolphins and Bills, at 5-3 apiece, are in the mix for a wildcard berth.
Down the left side of the screen the division leaders were listed and next to No. 4 was a lovely orange helmet.
You couldn’t help but smile. The Browns are not only “in the hunt” of the AFC playoff picture, but squarely in the mix.
It’s the little things.
Entering Sunday, the Browns have had 10 days to bask in the glow of that Thursday night victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Like the second meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 12, the Browns dominated the entire game. The outcome, shockingly, was never really in doubt.
How did the Browns follow up the victory over the Steelers? A 24-6 stinker of a loss down in Jacksonville.
That begs the question: Can the Browns deal with success?
Success hasn’t fallen upon this franchise very often since 1999. The Browns have had tastes here or there, but it never lingers and it is usually followed by disappointment. If things are truly going in the right direction for this franchise, these final seven games will not be a disappointment.
It begins Sunday in Cleveland against the Houston Texans. On the surface this appears to be an easy victory. The Texans are starting Ryan Mallett at quarterback. No way this guy comes into Cleveland and torches an improving Browns defense.
Careful. No way the Browns lose to Jacksonville, right?
If the Browns can continue playing well, as they have the last two weeks, that’ll be a sign that this team is able to deal with success. For 10 days, all the Browns heard is how they’re in the mix, how they’re for real, how they’re finally a good football team.
Careful. The Steelers threw 12 touchdowns passes in two games and then lost to the one-win Jets last Sunday.
Those previous two examples illustrate that this league is quirky and no team should ever feel complacent. Of course the Browns are saying all the right things, but what matters is the play on the field.
The Browns got back to running the ball against Cincinnati to the tune of 170 yards. This was a welcomed sight considering the previous three games the Browns rushed for 158 total.
The Browns need to stay out of obviously passing situations because J.J. Watt. In an era of offensive-first football, Watt has become a household name thanks to his impressive play. He’s a joy to watch … when he isn’t battling orange helmets.
In addition, after the first six games where opponents gashed the Browns on the ground, they have allowed 76, 113 and 86 yards rushing the last three games.
This shouldn’t be a difficult game for the Browns to win. The Texans aren’t a great football team. That said it could very well come down to the fourth quarter.
Thankfully, another positive wrinkle to this season has been the home field advantage for the Browns. It’s mid-November. The Browns are leading the AFC North. It’s time for FirstEnergy Stadium to be rocking, reminding older folks of the good ol’ days at the Municipal Stadium.
These past 10 days have been fun. Hopefully, the Browns players didn’t enjoy it as much as the fans. Stay in your lane, Browns. If so, expect Monday to have a victorious feel to it.