3 bold predictions for Week 18 of 2023 season

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Bo Melton (80) celebrates his touchdown reception with quarterback
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Bo Melton (80) celebrates his touchdown reception with quarterback / Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /
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2. Browns win with a fifth different starting quarterback

It’s been a season that has defied the odds. Yet, the Cleveland Browns are headed to the playoffs for the second time in four years. The team owns an 11-5 record and is locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC, a season after finishing 7-10 and in last place in the AFC North.

Buoyed by the recent play of 16-year veteran Joe Flacco, Kevin Stefanski’s club has won four straight games. In five starts with Cleveland, Flacco has thrown for 1,616 yards and 13 scores, albeit eight interceptions and one lost fumble. Of course, that’s been a big story surrounding the Browns. The team is postseason-bound despite the fact that it leads the NFL with 35 turnovers.

Flacco will sit this week as the Browns host the last-place Bengals. Jeff Driskel will be Stefanski’s fifth starting quarterback this season. He will also be the 38th different starting signa-caller for the franchise since its return to the NFL in 1999.

Who knows how many other starters the Browns will decide to rest this week? It’s a game they don’t need, but it is worth noting that a victory would give the franchise 12 wins. The only other time the Browns won a dozen games (since joining the NFL in 1950) was when they finished 12-4 in 1986.

1. Déjà vu for Packers at Lambeau Field

Matt LaFleur’s team has come a long way following a midseason slump. After winning two of their first three games, the Green Bay Packers embarked on a four-game skid. With a 3-6 record after nine outings, there were those who cast this team aside in terms of any playoff hopes.

However, thanks to the steady growth of quarterback Jordan Love, the Pack began to inch their way back. Wins over the Chargers, Lions (at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day), and Chiefs got LaFleur’s squad to the .500 mark. After back-to-back losses to the Giants and Buccaneers, Green Bay has rebounded smartly in scoring 33 points the last two weeks in victories at Carolina (33-30) and at Minnesota (33-10).

Love has already thrown for 3,843 yards and 30 touchdowns, and also ran for four scores. He’s committed only 13 turnovers and is completing 63.1 percent of his passes. He looks more and more comfortable on a weekly basis.

On the other hand, there’s the Packers’ defense. It’s been less-than-stellar and ranks 28th vs. the run. On the other hand, only the Ravens are averaging more rushing yards per game than the Chicago Bears. A year ago, all the Pack had to do was beat the Lions on a Sunday night at home in Week 18 to claim a wild card berth. The Bears are 4-1 in their last five games and will spoil things for LaFleur’s club.