Browns set to enter quarterback gauntlet following Week 6

Dec 12, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Going into Week 6 against head coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns should be at least  4-1 as they get ready to face a gauntlet of great and elite quarterbacks.

In the first five weeks of the season, Cleveland’s defense went against Baker Mayfield, Joe Flacco (Zach Wilson was out with an injury), Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, and Justin Herbert. Other than Herbert, that’s not an intimidating group of quarterbacks, yet Cleveland’s defense struggled against everyone except Trubisky.

Given that the Browns struggled against a mid-tier group of quarterbacks, it’s hard to imagine they’ll fare any better given who awaits in the upcoming weeks.

In the first five games of the season, the Browns’ offense put up at least 20 points (26, 30, 29, 20, and 28). Scoring a minimum of 20 points should be enough to win against most teams in the National Football League, yet Cleveland only has two wins to show for it. The Browns’ defense was supposed to play better than this, but they consistently play below the sum of their parts.

Against the Jets, the Browns blew a 13-point lead with two minutes remaining in regulation against a backup quarterback. Against Atlanta, the Browns were unable to make the necessary adjustments to stop the Falcons’ second-half run game, which compiled 202 yards total. Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier had 10 carries and ran for 84 yards.

The Chargers destroyed their defense with the run game, racking up 238 yards. Austin Ekeler alone accounted for 173. A late interception by Jacoby Brissett and a missed field goal by rookie kicker Cade York in the closing seconds sealed the Browns’ fate in a third, close-game loss. They found multiple ways to shoot themselves in the foot against LA, and their three losses are by a combined total of only six points.

The ideal situation would’ve been for the Browns to defeat the Chargers this past Sunday and then defeat the Patriots in Week 6. That way, they could go into their Week 7 game against the Ravens at 4-2 or 6-0. Despite their underwhelming record, the Browns only dropped to second place in the AFC North. This is due to the Browns being 1-0 against AFC North division opponents and the Cincinnati Bengals being 0-2 against AFC North division opponents.

When looking at the upcoming schedule for the Browns, the difficulty of quarterback they have to face goes way up. In Week 7, in Baltimore, the Browns play an offense led by Lamar Jackson, who’s been playing like he has something to prove in a contract year. Joe Burrow is looking for his first career win against the Browns when he brings the Bengals to Cleveland in Week 8 on Monday Night Football in Round 1 of “The Battle Of Ohio.”

The Browns face a resurgent Tua Tagovailoa (maybe) in Week 10 down in South Florida, MVP favorite Josh Allen in Buffalo in Week 11, and finally the “GOAT” Tom Brady in Week 12 for what could be his final game in Cleveland.

It would be nice if the Browns had their $230 million quarterback, Deshaun Watson, who they traded for this offseason to lead their offense when they go against the likes of Jackson, Burrow, Tua, Allen, and Brady. However, Watson is suspended for the first 11 games of the season. He’ll conveniently make his Browns debut in Week 13 when they head down to Houston to face the Houston Texans, Watson’s old team.

While the Browns were tripping over themselves on Sunday in a 30-28 loss to the Chargers, the Patriots were dismantling the Detroit Lions 29-0. Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium is most likely going to be a backup quarterback battle between rookie Bailey Zappe and Jacoby Brissett, who has seven years under his belt. Mac Jones, who is typically New England’s starting quarterback and was drafted in Cleveland, is listed as questionable on the Injury Report. There’s a possibility he could be back this week.

Whether it’s Jones or Zappe who plays on Sunday, neither of them represents the quarterback gauntlet mentioned earlier. By no means is that a slight or a dig towards either QB because they’re both young guys who are in their first and second years. Both New England quarterbacks have a lot of potential, but they don’t belong with the likes of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, or Patrick Mahomes right now.

According to the Patriots’ official website:

"“The overall series [between Cleveland and New England] is tied, 13-13, but the Patriots lead the series in regular season games, 13-12. Cleveland won the only postseason meeting when the Bill Belichick-led Browns claimed a 20-13 victory over the Patriots on New Year’s Day, 1995, in a Wild Card Playoff game at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.”"

Cleveland’s last victory against New England was back in 2010 to the tune of 34-14. The Patriots have won four games in a row against the Browns, with three of those four games against Tom Brady. However, the Patriots soundly dismantled the Browns last year 45-7 with Mac Jones at the controls.

Whether it’s Zappe or Jones slated as the starting quarterback for the Patriots on Sunday, the Browns’ defense absolutely cannot devalue either of them. Zappe went into Lambeau Field and pushed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to overtime and then led New England to a 29-0 shellacking of the Detroit Lions.

Going into Sunday afternoon’s game against  New England, the Cleveland Browns should be 5-0, but their defense has let them down. Theoretically, Cleveland should be 6-0 after New England. Regardless, they have to be ready to put their work boots on because after the Patriots game, Cleveland will be enduring the “Quarterback Gauntlet” with no margin for error.