It's November, and the 2013 Cleveland Browns are in the playoff hunt.
This year's Baltimore Ravens team is certainly not the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy this past February. That does not mean that Cleveland's victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions isn't worth anything other than the notch in the win column. The Browns looked like a playoff team on both sides of the football against the Ravens, and they have plenty of reasons to feel confident at the start of their off week.
No 2014 NFL Draft talk for you yet, Cleveland football fans.
Sober thoughts on Browns beating the Ravens: Great news
The biggest concern the Browns had on Monday morning was the health updates on quarterback Jason Campbell and wide receiver Greg Little. Both left the field hurt on Sunday, and Little was unable to finish the contest after injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter. Cleveland got good news regarding both of those players less than 24 hours after the team's victory over Baltimore.
Head coach Rob Chudzinski told reporters during his Monday press conference that neither player was seriously injured. Campbell has bruised ribs, while Little has a sprained shoulder. It is possible that both could practice with the team on Tuesday. Neither should be rushed back to the field, however, considering that the Browns will not again play until they are at the Cincinnati Bengals at November 17.
Sober thoughts on Browns beating the Ravens: That defense
Campbell, Little and the offense of the Browns stole headlines on Sunday night/Monday morning, and deservedly so. Fans shouldn't no-sell how well the Cleveland defense played in the second half. Take away the punt return that landed Baltimore at the Cleveland 32-yard line in the fourth quarter, and the Ravens wouldn't have found the end zone in the final two quarters of play.
Defense wins championships. It's not just a saying. It's a fact that is proven time and time again. The Browns have a core of a defense that could one day win a title. There's no reason to believe that Cleveland will not continue to improve on that side of the ball over the next couple of years.
Sober thoughts on Browns beating the Ravens: Aggressive
Chudzinski has brought more than just a different system to the Browns. He has added an aggressive nature to an offense that has, for far too long, lacked real life. He twice trusted his offense with the ball on fourth-and-one, and his players twice rewarded him.
Players feed off of that type of winning attitude. They grow in confidence when a head coach aggressively goes for the victory on a weekly basis. There is a question that must be asked now that the Browns are a win at Cincinnati away from a .500 record:
Will Chudzinski continue to show such gusto with 2013 no longer a lost cause?
It's easy to throw caution to the wind when you are coaching a losing football team. The expectations among those in the Cleveland fan base have risen with the benching of quarterback Brandon Weeden. Part of rolling the dice is knowing when to walk away with your winnings. Chudzinski is going to have to do just that at some point over the final seven games of the campaign.