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Cleveland Browns QB Joe Flacco has a chance to flip career narrative

Cleveland Browns' Joe Flacco
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Even when the Baltimore Ravens selected Joe Flacco in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, he flew under the radar. The likes of Matt Ryan and even second-round pick Chad Henne were better known than the small-school product from Delaware.

Flacco ultimately spent 11 seasons with the Ravens as their full-time starter, helping the team to a dramatic win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 season.

This didn’t somehow change the narrative surrounding Flacco. Those Ravens teams were defined more by dominant-level defenses, including the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

Fast forward roughly a half-decade since his departure from the Ravens, and Flacco has a real opportunity to flip his career narrative.

He was signed off the street by the Cleveland Browns back in November after Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending injury. The idea was simple for general manager Andrew Berry. Add someone with experience while the likes of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker were struggling in Watson’s stead.

Since joining the Browns, Flacco has led them to a 3-1 record. They can now clinch a spot in the AFC Playoffs with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football to open Week 17. It has been a whirlwind for the now-38-year-old Flacco. He also has the utmost confidence from the Browns’ brass.

“I think there are guys that, with that amount of turns and with that amount of years in different systems, can come in and operate pretty quickly,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski on Joe Flacco.”

“Now, you got to be very intelligent, and you got to work like crazy to do it. And I think Joe’s done both those things, but I think there’s enough similarity to the things that we’re doing that he’s done in the past, and I think he could lean into that experience.”

The question now is rather obvious. Can Flacco be one of the reasons why Cleveland doesn’t just make the playoffs, but also lead the team to a surprisingly deep run?

Related: Week 17 NFL power rankings

Joe Flacco must avoid the dreaded turnover bug

cleveland browns qb joe flacco
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off earning the FedEx Air Player of the Week in a win over the Houston Texans, Flacco has played solid football. It’s surprising in that we’re talking about a completely different system without star running back Nick Chubb.

However, turnovers have also plagued Flacco during his short stint in Cleveland. The veteran has turned the ball over eight times (seven interceptions, lost fumble) in four starts. It’s something that defined Flacco’s career with the Ravens. In fact, he threw double-digit interceptions in all 10 of his full seasons as Baltimore’s starting quarterback.

  • Joe Flacco stats (2023): 59% completion, 1,307 yards, 10 TD, 7 INT, 85.1 QB rating

The backdrop here is going up against a Jets team Flacco played for on a part-time basis from 2020-22.

“You kind of have that in the back of your mind. Does it help? Does it hurt? They’re probably thinking it helps them. “Maybe I’m thinking it helps me,” Flacco on playing against former team.

“Who knows? You’re running a slightly different offense. They’re a whole other year evolved into what they really feel like they do well. So, I think at the end of the day, once you kind of cross over the white on game day, that’s really what matters. So, all that kind of other stuff goes aside.”

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

It won’t be easy for Joe Flacco against New York Jets

new york jets' sauce gardner
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Despite New York posting a mere 6-9 record on the season, its defense has been absolutely elite heading into Thursday night.

Gang Green ranks 14th in the NFL in points allowed, but it is also third in total yards and second against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 16 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions for a 76.8 passer rating against the Jets.

Things get even trickier at home against the Jets with star wide receiver Amari Cooper slowed down by a heel injury he suffered during last week’s record-breaking performance against Houston. Assuming Cooper will be good to go, he still has a difficult matchup against 2022 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner who has allowed just 30 receptions in 14 games this season.

Related: Ranking Joe Flacco among NFL starting quarterbacks

Deep playoff run on the horizon for the Cleveland Browns?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
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Cleveland’s 10-5 record is a testament to what the players and coaches have been able to do throughout an injury-plagued season. It currently has 12 players on injured reserve. That includes Nick Chubb being sidelined since suffering a horrific knee injury back in Week 2.

On the surface, this should not be a double-digit win team. In fact, Cleveland is the first in modern NFL history to win 10 games while starting four different quarterbacks under center.

Right now, the Browns would be slated to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs. Jacksonville has dropped four consecutive games heading into Week 17, including falling down 30-0 to Tampa Bay last week. Hypothetically, this is a game the Browns could very well win.

It’s going to be all about what we see during the remainder of the regular season, starting Thursday night. After that, Cleveland visits the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18. If Flacco and Co. are able to be the fifth seed when things come to a conclusion, it could set them up for a deep playoff run.

In the process, this would dramatically change the career narrative surrounding one Joe Flacco.

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