The Cleveland Browns are in need of a boost heading into their huge game against the Green Bay Packers.
The Christmas Day matchup between the league-best 11-3 Packers and 7-7 Browns will be a sight to see.
With the Browns still waiting for players to get healthy, people will need to step up.
Not only does Cleveland have some players still in health and safety protocols, but the team also has a couple of important players not expected to suit up due to injury:
Stefanski: RB Kareem Hunt (ankle) and CB Troy Hill (knee) are not expected to be back vs. Packers
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 22, 2021
In addition, Takkarist McKinley (torn Achilles) has been placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
Unfortunately, Cleveland’s current spot in the playoff picture has them in the hunt, but in need of jumping a lot of teams.
On the bright side, five AFC teams have an 8-6 record, including the Bengals and Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are ninth in the conference at 7-6-1.
The 12th place Browns are losing the tiebreaker to the Raiders and Dolphins, but are ahead of the Broncos.
So, who can step up for the Browns in order for them to make it back to the postseason?
Here are the top two players:
2. Donovan Peoples-Jones
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been getting a good number of targets recently, but he is not producing to the level necessary for this Browns offense.
He has topped 50 receiving yards just twice in the second half of the season, and once in the team’s last five games.
There are many reasons for his inconsistencies: youth, health of the quarterbacks, and Stefanski’s recent absence.
However, if the Browns are going to make a splash in the AFC, he will have to step up.
Peoples-Jones will have to make a few big plays in the final few games.
Maybe the Browns can use him on a rush or two in Week 16.
He could also be employed on kick or punt returns.
Peoples-Jones’ first punt return of 2021 was a 20-yard return in Week 15.
1. Baker Mayfield
Of course, it comes down to the hopeful franchise quarterback.
The Browns have battled without Mayfield and have gone 1-1 with a combined score of 31-30 in his absences.
Is he ready to have another tremendous end to a season?
This is the make-it-or-break-it time for the quarterback.
He has been efficient this season to the tune of 12.1 yards per completion (fourth in the NFL).
However, the Browns rank 19th in points and yards per game this season.
Those rankings are both third in the AFC North.
It has just not been good enough for a Browns team with high aspirations.
If Mayfield can play all three games to end the 2021 regular season, it will be very exciting to see if he is up to the challenge.