It’s come down to this.
A Week 17 regular season finale matchup between AFC North division rivals, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have clinched the AFC North, and the Browns make the playoffs with a win over the Steelers.
It would be the Browns’ first playoff appearance since 2002.
Here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
1. The Browns Win The Game
Of course, this is the best and boldest prediction of all.
The Browns have not beaten the Steelers since that fateful game in fall 2019 under Freddie Kitchens.
Pittsburgh has pretty much owned the Browns in the past decade; the Browns have only won three of the games.
Besides 2019, the others were in 2012 and 2014.
All three Browns wins in the past decade were at home in Cleveland so that is a positive note worth mentioning.
I won’t go crazy and say it’s a lopsided victory like the 2019 one of 21-7 because the game will most likely be very close.
But I think the Browns’ adversity in the 24 hours prior to the Jets game mentally drained them as well as took away some of their key playmakers.
Barring a major COVID-19 catastrophe (always possible since it is 2020), I think the Browns will bounce back from the Jets’ disappointment and come out with the win and playoff berth.
2. The Browns Offense Plays Well
For the Browns to win, the offense must play its game and play it well.
That means running the ball which also means not falling behind early against the Steelers.
The Browns are at their best when they establish the run game, chew up the game clock, and score TDs on early possessions.
Baker took the brunt of the criticism for the Jets’ loss, but everyone needs to step up and play better this week.
#Browns RB Kareem Hunt said Baker Mayfield is my brother, loss to Jets definitely isn't all on him, there are a lot of things a lot of people could have done better, I believe he'll bounce back
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) December 28, 2020
This also means that Jedrick Wills needs to be back in the lineup because the Jets sacked Baker four times, and Wills has done a great job during the 2020 season of protecting Mayfield.
3. Kicker Cody Parkey Does Not Miss A Kick
Okay, this bold prediction makes me the most nervous of all.
I want to believe the Browns will see the early season solid-as-a-rock Cody Parkey and not the shell of Parkey we’ve seen for the past weeks.
Also, we absolutely cannot have the Bears’ “double-doink” Parkey reemerge.
Coach Stefanski appears to be confident in his kicker, so Browns fans need to be also.
Why though? https://t.co/903gM2F4ua
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) December 28, 2020
As I said, I think this game is going to be close so every point (and field goal) are going to be very important and must be converted.
This week, the Browns need everyone to get healthy including Myles Garrett whose performance post COVID-19 has not yet matched his dominance pre COVID-19.
In the end, no dumb mistakes, no turnovers, and no missed scoring opportunities will be the keys to securing a Browns victory and bid for the AFC playoffs.
Let’s hope the bold predictions become realities on Sunday afternoon.