With season hanging in the balance, Browns aim to knock Ravens from their AFC North perch


BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – As the Browns prepare to fly to Baltimore to face the Ravens this weekend, the writing is on the wall.

Time is short, the margin for error is razor thin, and they better win.

“They’re at the top and they’re in the way,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “We’re trying to go to the playoffs and right now we gotta go through them, so that’s how we’re looking at it.”

The Browns have never won the AFC North since its inception in 2002 and they haven’t won a division title since 1989. But despite injuries and inconsistency on both sides of the ball, the North is right there for the taking.

“Does the season come down to it? At the moment, yes,” safety John Johnson III said. “We have to win this one. We have to go 1-0 this game, another division game. If we want to win our division, we have to win this game. As said ‘at this moment,’ but later on, it might change.”

While Sunday night’s game isn’t a do or die, win or go home situation – not with five more games on the schedule, including every AFC north opponent – it’s pretty close.

“You look at the division right now, everybody is stuck in there,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said.

The Ravens, who like the Browns have been ravaged by injuries this year, sit atop the AFC North at 7-3. Cleveland is 1 ½ games back at 6-5, yet are in last place within the division.

“Obviously any time you have a divisional game it’s a huge game for us,” Mayfield said. “Turning point in the season? I mean, we have a winning record. Everybody else wants to throw us in the trash but we know exactly what’s in front of us and that’s how we’re going to handle it.”

The schedule down the stretch isn’t kind.

Including two games over the next three weeks against the Ravens with a bye week sandwiched in between, every opponent left is a playoff contender. The Raiders are 6-5, the Packers 8-3, the Steelers 5-4-1 and the Bengals are 6-4.

“Every game for us from now on is like a playoff game, so no matter [what] we've got to win,” running back Kareem Hunt, who returns from a 5-week stay on IR due to a calf strain, said.

While the schedule wasn’t as daunting a year ago, the Browns ended last season by winning 7 of their last 9 to clinch a Wild Card berth at 11-5.

So how do Mayfield and the Browns finish strong again?

“It's just a one week at a time mindset which is what we did last year,” Mayfield said. “But we're sitting in a different spot right now – six games left and one win behind the division leader which we're playing twice in the next three weeks and so we know the task at hand, and we know how we have to attack it.”

Baltimore is getting it done this year in crunch time, outscoring opponents 94-79 in the fourth quarter and overtime this season while Cleveland is being outscored in the final 15 minutes by 37 points, 89-52.

The Ravens are 5-1 in games decided by a score or less this season, including 2-1 in overtime, while the Browns are 3-3 and have yet to play beyond 60 minutes.

“They are a very resilient team,” Mayfield said.