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Panthers “Just Need a Win” in Cleveland

Sharon Thorsland
December 07, 2018 - 10:26 am

It's been a long month for the Panthers, who have lost four in a row and have nearly played themselves out of playoff contention. At 6-6 they still have a shot at the postseason, but they've got to get a win over the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland. “All you need is just one to catch fire,” said quarterback Cam Newton. “And there's no doubt in my mind that this team has big-play potential and can go anywhere and win.”

After two years of absolutely abysmal football, the Browns are actually winning. Granted, they're just 4-7-1, but that's way better than the 1-31 record they posted over the two prior seasons. So what's changed in Cleveland? Lots of things, but the biggest improvement has been at quarterback. The Browns started the season with Tyrod Taylor under center, but the former Bill went down in week three with a concussion. Enter rookie Baker Mayfield – since taking over for Taylor, the number one overall pick in the draft has never looked back. Mayfield has thrown for over 2600 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Panther cornerback Captain Munnerlyn calls Mayfield “a gunslinger, he's definitely a special athlete.”

The Browns have another special athlete in running back Nick Chubb. The rookie out of Georgia has picked up nearly 700 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns and is also a good pass catcher. But the Panther defense is ranked 6th in the NFL against the run and will have the head coaching calling the plays on Sunday, so they'll be looking to make things tough on Chubb.

The Browns upgraded their passing game by trading for former Dolphin receiver Jarvis Landry. The Pro Bowler teams with a pair of excellent tight ends in David Njoku and 6'7 Darren Fells, they've combined for five touchdowns. “The tight ends are playing great,” said Panther safety Eric Reid. “Jarvis is always playing great, he's Jarvis. And they have a good running back in Chubb, so we have to do our job a little bit better.”

The Browns boast another number one overall draft pick in defensive end Myles Garrett. The second-year player is living up to expectations, his 11.5 sacks are tied for 4th in the NFL. But the rest of the defense hasn't been so great – the Browns rank in the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive category. One thing they do have going for them – they're aggressive, ranking second in the league with 27 takeaways. They'll face a Panther offense that can be very good and boasts the NFL's 2nd ranked rushing attack averaging over 140 yards a game.

These teams don't play each other very often – their last matchup was back in 2010, a one-point Cleveland win. The Panthers lead the series 4-1, and they'd like to add to that total today and keep their hopes of the playoffs alive at the same time. But after a month of coming up short, they've really got just one thing on their minds. “We just want a win,” said Munnerlyn. “We need a win bad, we haven't had a win in four weeks. So we're just trying to win.”

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