The Cleveland Browns are 5-3 in the bye week and that has some fans frustrated.
That could be chalked up as a good change after years where even a 2-6 record would be considered progress.
Fans expect wins and ultimately a playoff berth in 2020 when the postseason will be expanded.
This past Sunday humbled the Browns a bit after the Las Vegas Raiders came to Cleveland in terrible weather and literally ran all over the defense.
The offense couldn’t do much either and there is plenty of time for reflection during this bye week.
The Browns are 5-3 and right in the thick of the playoff picture.
However, several things must be done for the team to actually make the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Mayfield on the Browns at the bye:
"Not anywhere close to where we want to be. We have a 5-3 record and it should be a lot better."
— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) November 1, 2020
3. Get Baker Mayfield Back on Track
Baker Mayfield just can’t seem to stay consistent.
To be fair, he did deal with some crucial drops in addition to all the bad weather Sunday.
Highest percentage of passes dropped in Week 8:
Baker Mayfield – 20.0% (5)
Tua Tagovailoa – 13.6% (3)
Matt Ryan – 13.3% (4) pic.twitter.com/wncMnBSCDI
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) November 2, 2020
He is not the reason he lost, but that doesn’t mean he has been an elite quarterback.
Mayfield’s most yards in a game this season was his mark of 297 in his five-touchdown performance against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He has failed to reach 200 yards in five of his eight games and is averaging just over 189 yards per game.
The third-year quarterback went 12/25 against the Raiders and the offense needs more consistent outings from him to avoid this up-and-down cycle of him either looking awful or ripping apart a defense like he did to the Bengals.
This offense is going to be carried by the running game.
But defenses are still going to pack the box if Mayfield doesn’t present a real threat as a thrower.
Getting at least one 300-yard game will have defenses preparing differently and will also take so much pressure off both Kareem Hunt and a returning Nick Chubb.
2. Figure Out the Run Defense
Sunday’s loss against the Raiders was painful to watch.
The Las Vegas offense was on the field for nearly 38 minutes and ran for 208 yards on 45 carries.
Josh Jacobs averaged over four yards per carry and Derek Carr even ran for 41 yards.
A career day for @IAM_JoshJacobs. pic.twitter.com/F582TukGDI
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 1, 2020
The Browns run defense was embarrassed on a day when the Raiders were not hiding the fact they weren’t going to throw the ball often.
The Cleveland defense still ranks near the top third of the league with 106.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
Sunday was still a shock because the weather made it clear Jacobs would be running most of the day.
This was the first game where a team was running the ball all game in an attempt to win that way.
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers ran well against the Browns, but those were both blowouts where the motivation was gone by the second half.
This is not on one or two players.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods needs to get together with his staff and figure this out.
One more quarterback running up the middle of the defense on a key third-down will be enough to break some of the strongest Browns fans.
1. Beat a Division Rival
The Browns are 2-0 against the Bengals this season.
That is all good and well.
However, a win against the Ravens or Steelers will prove this Browns team can actually compete against top AFC competition.
It will also improve the chances of reaching the postseason because the Browns still have one game against both of those division rivals.
Losing both would put the Browns at five losses with a tough game against the Tennessee Titans also on the schedule.
Fans who want to say the Browns will easily take down the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, and New York Giants are ignoring recent history.
Taking just one division game improves the Browns’ chances immensely and could even help the team fight for the divisional crown if Pittsburgh comes down to Earth a bit.
Can you imagine a Week 17 matchup against the Steelers in which the Browns need a win in order to either reach the playoffs or win the division?
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