It was just a loss, baby.
Playing with third-string quarterback Nick Mullens and without nine starters on the COVID-19 list, the Browns had all-but sewed up a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. Then they didn’t.
A fourth-quarter touchdown gave the Browns a one-point lead and then an interception by Greedy Williams gave them the ball back with less than three minutes to play.
That’s when everything went south. Conservative play-calling resulted in a three-and-out and a punt. The Raiders then marched into Browns territory and kicked a game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired.
It seemed as if the Browns’ playoff hopes had expired, too, when a chance to move into the lead in the AFC North and into the fourth playoff spot turned into last place in the division and the 12th spot in the AFC.
But, with games left against AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals on the schedule after a trip to Green Bay, the Browns remain alive, and can make the playoffs with three wins — or even with two wins, as long as the loss is to the Packers.
Will the Browns get back on track against the Pack?
Here’s how our Browns coverage team expects Saturday’s game to turn out:
Steve Doerschuk:The Cleveland Browns’ ‘sleeping giant’ is awake. It’s the team that refuses to wake up.
Steve Doerschuk (9-5)
Game prediction: Packers 27-17. Holding on to that 14-13 lead against the Raiders might have worked wonders. Holding on to the season at Green Bay is a much more daunting task than the Raiders game was.
Browns still kicking: Kicker Chase McLaughlin keeps his job; Kareem Hunt not expected to play against Packers
Marla Ridenour (9-5)
Game prediction: Packers 35, Browns 17: Can’t believe in a Christmas miracle, especially against Aaron Rodgers and a standout receiving corps.
More adversity: Groin injury may sideline Myles Garrett, but Browns defensive ends ‘biting at the chomps’ to prove themselves
George Thomas (8-6)
Game prediction: Packer 34, Browns 17. Browns do not have enough offensive firepower to come close to keeping up.
Comings and goings: Coach Kevin Stefanski back with Browns after clearing COVID-19 protocols
Nate Ulrich (10-4)
Game prediction: Packers 31, Browns 13. Cleveland’s COVID-19 outbreak is still very much a factor, and arguably the best team in the NFL awaits at Lambeau Field.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers: Staff Predictions