CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns came back from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Ravens 33-31 in Baltimore on Sunday. But there was more going on around the NFL than what happened in this AFC North showdown.
Each week, we’ll take a look at the biggest storylines and examine potential narratives surrounding the NFL.
To examine these stories and narratives, we follow in the footsteps of the 1990s show Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. The show may be best known for its host Jonathan Frakes’ memes.
Just like the Frakes, we decide each week whether some of the top stories from across the league are fact or fiction. Here are his six biggest stories of the week.
1. The way Deshaun Watson helped shut out the Ravens, the Browns can win the AFC North.
Deshaun Watson had a terrible start in Baltimore, throwing a pick-six on the second play of scrimmage and starting 1-of-9 passes. But in the second half, Watson had his first truly iconic moment, showing why the Browns gave up six draft picks and paid $230 million to bring him to Cleveland.
Watson went 14 of 14 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the second half, helping the Browns upset the Ravens and win. He went 20 of 34 for 213 yards, a TD, and an INT.
The come-from-behind victory puts the Browns at 6-3, just 0.5 games behind the Ravens for first place in the AFC North. They also split the season series, taking a potential tiebreaker off the board.
The Browns worked with great enthusiasm to acquire Watson for most of the first season and a half since the trade. But in this game, against an elite opponent, Watson looked like his Houston self. Despite not being a top-three tackler and getting off to a slow start, Watson led the team with two touchdown drives, including the game-winning drive in the final seconds.
That’s the Watson they’ve been waiting for. And Watson could give the Browns a legitimate chance to win the AFC North. According to the New York Times Playoff Simulator, The Browns now have a 31% chance of winning the AFC North..
The focus suddenly shifts to the Week 11 home game against the Steelers. A win not only wipes out another head-to-head tiebreaker, but also guarantees at least a .500 record in the division.
They have won games with their defense, sometimes even against the quarterback. On Sunday, they won thanks in large part to the play of their quarterback.
The next step is for Watson to build it. He injured his right rotator cuff against the Titans and was unable to get through the game. But Sunday’s second half was Watson’s best moment since arriving in Cleveland.
It’s elite quarterback play that allows a team to win games, like the Browns did in Baltimore. And if the Browns keep winning, they’ll be able to do something they haven’t been able to do for 34 years and win a very tough AFC North game.
2. Thursday night’s game against the Bengals will be the Ravens’ biggest game of the season.
The NFL story can change by the minute. A week ago, the Ravens looked like the best team in football, and the Bengals looked like they would go on a long winning streak just like they did a year ago.
But after the Ravens lost at home to the Browns and the Bengals lost to the suddenly hot Texans, the sentiment in Baltimore and Cincinnati remains the same as it was a week ago.
The only good news for both teams is that they have a chance to redeem themselves when they play in Baltimore on Thursday night. But this feels like it could be a defining game for the Ravens.
The lead for first place in the AFC North is slim after only half a game, with the Steelers and Browns on the line. If they lose, the Browns and Steelers will play in Cleveland for first place in the AFC North.
It’s understandable that the Ravens have a difficult time finishing the season, to say the least. They travel to play the Chargers in Week 12 before their bye week.
After hosting the Rams, they must travel to Jacksonville and San Francisco before hosting the Dolphins and Steelers in the final four weeks.
That’s why Thursday night’s game could decide Baltimore’s season. The Ravens need a division title more than the Bengals. Cincinnati has a chance to make the Super Bowl even if they make the playoffs as a wild card because of Joe Burrow and his work in the past two postseasons.
At this point, it would be shocking if the Ravens missed the playoffs. But after blowing a 15-point lead against the Browns, they will have to quickly rebuild against the Bengals on Thursday night. Otherwise, their season could go in a different direction.
3. Joshua Dobbs makes Kirk Cousins expendable in Minnesota.
The story of Minnesota’s Joshua Dobbs is quickly becoming a fairy tale. Dobbs came off the bench a week ago and led the Vikings to victory just five days after signing with Minnesota.
On Sunday, he had another impressive day, leading the Vikings to a 27-19 victory over the Saints. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, and had eight rushes for 44 yards and a TD.
With the win, the Vikings remain in good position for a playoff berth at 6-4, considering they started the season 1-4 and lost Kirk Cousins to a torn Achilles tendon. , which is great.
That said, what Dobbs is doing now doesn’t mean the Cousins era is over. Cousins will be a free agent after the season, but he could easily return, especially if the Vikings aren’t in position to make a top quarterback pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
The Vikings still have to play the Lions twice before heading to Cincinnati. But with Dobbs’ accomplishments, the Vikings should be able to easily return to the playoffs.
He’s not a long-term solution. But it’s a great story and makes for a very fun trip through Minnesota.
4. The Patriots should move on from Bill Belichick.
This was an outcome that would have been unthinkable a year ago. However, the Patriots have suffered major setbacks this season, primarily due to poor play from their quarterback. The Patriots lost to the Colts 10-6 in Frankfurt, Germany, and are now 2-8.
Mac Jones made an interception in the red zone with 4:24 left in the fourth quarter, and Bailey Zappe, who replaced Jones on the drive immediately after, also made an interception with a fake spike.
The Patriots are now looking squarely at rebuilding. Perhaps what they need is a new person to lead the operation.
Bill Belichick may be the greatest head coach in modern NFL history. But nothing lasts forever, and it may be time for the Patriots to find a new coach and general manager to lead this rebuild.
5. The Texans will keep the Bills and Bengals out of the playoffs.
Don’t look now, but the Houston Texans are in the playoff picture heading into Week 11. Imagine saying that at the end of last season, when they lost the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with a Week 18 win in Indianapolis.
But picking No. 2 was the best thing that could have happened because they got C.J. Stroud, who is special. After a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Buccaneers a week ago, Stroud was once again the hero, and despite blowing a 10-point lead to the Bengals in the final minutes, he was even better in a 30-27 win at Cincinnati. led to victory.
Stroud completed 23 of 39 passes for 356 yards, one touchdown and his second interception of the season. He also rushed for points.
As it stands, they will make the playoffs at the expense of both the Bills and Bengals, teams that have appeared in the AFC Championship Game the past three seasons.
However, with only eight weeks left in the season, I don’t think that situation will continue at this point.
The NFL is a world apart for the hunter and the hunted. The Texans are no longer sneaking up on anyone and it will be interesting to see how they adapt.
They still play the Jaguars, Jets, and Browns, so some tough defenses await them. What they also have is a quarterback who makes them believe.
That cannot be taken lightly.
But so are the Bills and Bengals. They’ve been there too, and that means something.
It’s true that the Texans will remain in the playoffs until the end, but it feels like either the Bills or Bengals will heat up over the last eight weeks and end up back in the playoffs. Houston won’t be able to shut out either team.
6. The 49ers are back to their usual self.
The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for the San Francisco 49ers. After starting 5-0, they lost three straight.
But with a week off to stay healthy, the 49ers looked like a 5-0 version of themselves when they absolutely dominated the Jaguars, 34-3, in Jacksonville.
Brock Purdy had 296 yards and three touchdowns, and the offense gained 437 yards. The defense also made life miserable for Jacksonville, picking off Trevor Lawrence twice, sacking him five times and forcing four turnovers.
Deebo Samuel returned and made an impact with a rushing TD.
The 49ers are currently 6-3 and after a week off, they look like the same team they started the season with.