The Star Democrat

Browns look to lift playoff fortunes

Hope to deal Pack first home defeat


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Cleveland Browns are residing in the AFC North basement, dealing with COVID-19 complicati­ons and playing two road games in a span of six days.

Yet they remain in the mix for a second straight playoff berth.

The Browns (7-7) can give their fading postseason hopes a major boost by winning Saturday as they attempt to hand the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers (11-3) their first home loss of the season.

Cleveland is attempting to bounce back from a 16-14 loss to the LasVegas Raiders that was decided by a field goal on the game’s final play.

“We have to go out there, forget what happened, understand the situation to win and understand that we can’t have any more messups,” Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “That is it. Just live in that reality.”

The Browns were missing coach Kevin Stefanski

and about a dozen usual starters — including quarterbac­k Baker Mayfield — who were on the reserve/ COVID-19 list for the Raiders game.

Stefanski has since returned. The Browns also expect to have some players back who weren’t available for Monday’s game, maybe even Mayfield, who might not travel with the

team to Wisconsin, but is expected to start.

He remained on the COVID-19 list through Thursday, and Mayfield hasn’t practiced since going on the COVID-19 list Dec. 15. His 10-day quarantine period ends Saturday, and Stefanski said he’ll likely start despite not practicing.

“If he’s healthy as he’s been and he’s cleared and ready to go, then I anticipate him playing.”

With the late kickoff, the Browns will have a walkthroug­h before the game, which will give Mayfield a

chance to go over the game plan and throw after being limited to virtual meetings the past two weeks.

It has been a challengin­g two weeks for the Browns, who have dealt with numerous obstacles while preparing for one of the NFL’s top teams.

“The challenge is facing a really good Packers team,” Stefanski said. “You know they have star players. They are very well coached.We have our work cut out for us.Who is available to us and all of those type of things, we will just deal with it day by day.”

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