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Three Games the Browns Need to Win to Win AFC North
The Cleveland Browns were one of the most impressive teams in the 2020 NFL season as they produced an 11-5 record that was one game off the best in the division, held by the Pittsburgh Steelers, though they finished in third place due to a tiebreaker with the Baltimore Ravens.
Cleveland has one of the most talented rosters in all of football, and with Odell Beckham Jr. returning from injury and Jadeveon Clowney joining in free agency, they will be even stronger this time around.
While the team has drawn Super Bowl prognosticators and believers, their first task will be to conquer what is one of the two best divisions in football— here are three key games that the Browns will have to win in order to win the AFC North.
Week 10 @ New England Patriots
Taking on the Patriots in Foxborough and the cold weather is a true litmus test for any contender in the NFL, regardless of how well New England may be playing at the time. Even though they finished 7-9 last season, the Pats should be back and better now that they have strengthened their squad and will have more familiarity with quarterback Cam Newton.
New England is not a division rival and will not directly affect the divisional standings, but they will put the Browns in a tough situation and force them to be at their very best— if they can take down the six-time Super Bowl champs past the halfway point in the season, they will have proven that they are a legitimate team to beat.
Week 14 vs Baltimore Ravens
This game will be more than a simple rivalry match or revenge for last season’s standings in the division; the Browns will be coming off of a bye week, and their most recent matchup will have been on the road against, guess who, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have produced the league’s most consistent rushing attack for two straight seasons with former MVP Lamar Jackson at the helm, and Cleveland will be in for a battle at home. There is a saying in sports that beating any team two times in a row is a tall task, so the Browns will have motivation regardless of the week 12 outcome: win, and you either defeated your rival in consecutive matchups or stole the momentum and leveled out the tiebreaker.
Week 17 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland’s penultimate game will be on the road in Pittsburgh in a duel that is practically guaranteed to have postseason implications. Given that this game is so late in the season, both teams will know exactly what is in play when they clash in the Steel City.
Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season as a head coach and will have Pittsburgh right in the playoff hunt; the Browns will have the perfect opportunity to not only knock off the defending division champions but to do it in their home stadium. This game will be hard-fought with lots of penalties and chirping between players, but if Cleveland can come out on top, they will have given themselves a massive boost in the division race.
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