Watch out, NFL world: These aren't your father's Cleveland Browns. That's right, they're winners. Well, at least they're guaranteed to not be losers. Now sitting at 8-3 after picking up a third-straight victory on Sunday, the Browns can finish no worse than 8-8 this season. It's been over a decade since the last time Cleveland finished with a .500 record or better — and an even longer time since they last made the playoffs. First-year head coach Kevin Stefanski is well on his way to becoming a local legend, as he's giving Browns fans a reason to celebrate on a near-weekly basis.
In this week's numbers to know, we'll highlight the embarrassing streak Stefanski's Browns broke in Week 12. We'll also take a closer look at the Las Vegas Raiders, who have a statistic that helps explain why they're not quite ready to rise to the top. Before we get to those two teams, though, here are some figures you must know from the past weekend of action.
The Denver Broncos' quarterback situation was a disaster on Sunday. After the reserve/COVID-19 list claimed all of the team's arms, the Broncos had no other option but to play undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendall Hinton as their emergency quarterback. As a result, the Broncos completed just one pass for 13 yards in a 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Hinton's lone completion went to tight end Noah Fant and didn't come until the second half. He threw eight other pass attempts in the game and two of them were intercepted. As lopsided as the loss was for Denver, Hinton's performance in an unprecedented situation was actually quite respectable. The converted receiver from Wake Forest was signed off the practice squad, took zero practice reps during the week and played in his very first NFL game. The fact that he even completed a single pass is almost miraculous.
It was a wild Week 12 Sunday and there's a lot to go over. John Breech, Ryan Wilson and host Will Brinson break it all down on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
The Carolina Panthers lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-27 on Sunday, but rookie safety Jeremy Chinn deserves a shoutout for what he accomplished in the losing effort. Chinn scored two defensive touchdowns for the Panthers (both fumble returns), and they came on back-to-back snaps. He is only the third player in NFL history to score two fumble-return touchdowns in a game and the first to do it since since Fred "Dippy" Evans accomplished the feat in 1948.
Chinn's second touchdown gave the Panthers a 21-10 lead, which they ultimately blew in the fourth quarter. Still, Chinn finished with a game-high 13 tackles (seven solo) and took a significant step forward in the race for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The second-rounder out of Southern Illinois has been a versatile peg in Carolina's defense, logging snaps at multiple positions across the unit. He's making head-turning plays and is now on track to become a household name by the end of his first professional season.
As he normally does this time of year, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is steamrolling his way through the NFL. He essentially put the Indianapolis Colts away in two quarters, eclipsing 100 yards and scoring three touchdowns before the halftime gun sounded. Henry would go on to finish with 178 yards on 27 carries (6.6 YPC) in what would turn out to be a 45-26 victory over the Colts.
The Titans fell to these same Colts by 17 points just two weeks ago, but they looked like a completely different team in Sunday's rematch. Although Henry rushed for over 100 yards in the first meeting, he did not find the end zone. After his three-touchdown performance in Week 12, Henry now has 12 touchdowns on the season. He joins Earl Campbell as the only other player in franchise history to rush for 10-plus touchdowns in three straight seasons. Henry's scoring is the biggest reason why the Titans are 8-3 and currently alone atop the AFC South standings.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold returned to the starting lineup on Sunday, but he did not look good in a 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Darnold has now failed to throw a touchdown pass in four straight games played, as the Jets sink deeper into their perceived tank for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. He also threw two picks against the Dolphins, bringing his season total up to eight interceptions compared to just three touchdown passes.
With the Jets sitting at 0-11 and struggling to compete, it's abundantly clear that drastic changes are coming this offseason. It was a foregone conclusion that Adam Gase would not be the head coach in 2021, but now it seems likely that Darnold will be moving on as well. Although injuries/illness have kept him from completing a full season in the NFL, the former third-overall pick is only 23 years old and has flashed some potential while playing in an abysmal offense. If the Jets do, in fact, move on from Darnold, he'll be a buzz-worthy reclamation project for whichever team picks him up next.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has taken a definitive lead in his rivalry with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. The two coaches have met eight times since taking over their respective NFC West squads in 2017, and Shanahan has won five of them. With a 23-20 win on Sunday, Shanahan's 49ers have swept McVay's Rams each of the past two seasons.
San Francisco's NFC title defense hasn't gone according to plan, but when you consider all of the injuries the 49ers have dealt with this season, it's pretty amazing that they're only one game under .500 at 5-6. That is a direct result of Shanahan's coaching staff (namely defensive coordinator Robert Saleh). McVay is a brilliant coach in his own right, but you have to give Shanahan the edge at this point. Between these two, a Super Bowl-winning head coach in Seattle's Pete Carroll and another up-and-coming offensive mind in Arizona's Kliff Kingsbury, it's no wonder the NFC West is so competitive this season.
Rejoice, Cleveland! Your Browns won't have a losing record this year. By notching their eighth victory of the season on Sunday — a 27-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars — Cleveland clinched a final winning percentage of at least .500 and snapped a streak of 12 consecutive losing seasons. The last time the Browns finished 8-8 or better (2007), Romeo Crennel was their head coach and Derek Anderson was their quarterback. They finished 10-6 that year but didn't make the playoffs; Cleveland's postseason drought dates all the way back to 2002.
There's a good chance the Browns break that unfortunate streak, too, this season. The Browns have pulled ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and are tied with the Titans and Bills for the third best record in the conference. If the playoffs were to start today, they would claim the No. 5 seed and visit Buffalo in the wild-card round. Cleveland will make it there, so long as the ground game keeps rolling. Running backs Nick Chubb (719 yards) and Kareem Hunt (706 yards) both rank among the NFL's top-10 rushers this season, despite the fact that Chubb missed a solid chunk of time due to injury.
The Las Vegas Raiders are the only team that has defeated the Kansas City Chiefs this year, yet they're currently outside the playoff picture looking in at 6-5. The biggest factor holding the Raiders back is their defense. After losing 43-6 to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, they've now surrendered at least 30 points in seven games this season (tied with the Jets for most in the NFL). Las Vegas ranks among the bottom five teams in the league in terms of points allowed per game (29.0).
While the Raiders defense certainly needs some work, turnovers on offense have not helped the cause. Quarterback Derek Carr, who has successfully limited his interceptions in 2020, leads the NFL with eight fumbles lost this season. Three of them came against the Falcons in Week 12, and Carr also threw a pick-six. As a team, the Raiders trail only the Dallas Cowboys with 11 lost fumbles. Las Vegas' lack of ball security, combined with a below-average defense, is a recipe for disaster — which we saw on display versus the Falcons.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had a legendary first-half performance in a 27-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Hill had 210 receiving yards by halftime, matching a figure that had only been accomplished once before in the past 30 years (George Kittle, 2018). He would go on to finish the game with 269 yards and three touchdowns an 13 receptions. Hill is the only receiver over 1,000 yards so far this season and also leads the NFL with a career-high 13 touchdown receptions.
Hill, a former fifth-round draft pick out of West Alabama, has far outgrown the "return specialist" label that he brought to the NFL in 2016. Not only is he a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has helped him become one of the most lethal offensive weapons across the league. Patrick Mahomes does a lot of breathtaking things at the quarterback position, but some of them are only possible due to Hill's world-class speed and athleticism.