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Joe Flacco the unexpected hero of Browns' playoff run

The Cleveland Browns signed Joe Flacco to their practice squad five weeks ago after Deshaun Watson succumbed to a season-ending injury on his throwing shoulder. His promotion to the active roster was uncertain, given that the Browns have P.J. Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson in their quarterback depth chart.

However, the veteran signal-caller became the unexpected answer to a Browns offense that has sometimes gone stagnant. It took a while before he got his bearings back, losing to the Los Angeles Rams in his first start of the 2023 NFL season.

At that point, the Browns had a modest 7-5 record. Every win counts for Cleveland because they play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions. But somehow, Flacco turned back time’s hands to help the Browns clinch a postseason spot.

The Browns have won their last three games, and Flacco is a massive part of their success. He hasn’t been flawless, throwing six interceptions during that stretch. However, he has ignited the offense with eight touchdowns (ten, including the two he threw against the Rams).

Flacco has completed 61.9 percent of his throws during their winning streak and went over 300 passing yards in every game. He had 26 completions for 311 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars, 374 yards versus the Chicago Bears, and 368 in Week 16 against the Houston Texans.

His passing prowess has helped David Njoku and Amari Cooper establish big games for the Browns. Njoku had 91 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Cooper torched the Texans defense with 265 yards and two touchdowns.

Despite the interceptions, Flacco’s performances made him a reliable fantasy football option. He had 16 fantasy points against the Rams, 20 versus Jacksonville, 17 after the Chicago game, and 25 over Houston. Combine his output with an excellent defense, and the Browns are one of the hottest teams.

More importantly, they are in a favorable position to clinch their first playoff berth in three seasons. They could also clinch the highly competitive AFC North depending on how they and the Baltimore Ravens fare in their remaining regular season games.

The Browns will face the New York Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 17 and 18. Meanwhile, the Ravens have the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football, the Miami Dolphins the week after, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season finale.

-Lance Fernandez

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