I can't believe I'm actually about to say this, but Joe Flacco has been the single craziest story in the entire NFL in 2023. There has certainly been a lot going on around the league this year, but Flacco coming out of nowhere to lead the Browns to four wins in five games is absolutely bizarre and something nobody saw coming.
Flacco wasn't on anyone's BINGO card in 2023. Nobody was talking about him as a starter or even backup for any team in the league. Flacco was an afterthought. It was assumed that he was done playing football.
The Cleveland Browns have been one of the best teams in the AFC this season. They were projected to be at least a Wild Card contender going into the season thanks to their tremendous defense and the projected improvement of starting quarterback Deshaun Watson in his second season with the team. But the Browns started suffering injuries early in the season that seemingly spelled their demise.
Nick Chubb went down in September with a scary-looking knee injury. Deshaun Watson has missed most of the year due to injury. Starting right tackle Jack Conklin went down. The defense has had to weather multiple storms on the injury front.
This Browns roster has been tested substantially and at key positions, and yet they managed to make it into the stretch run of the season very much in the mix. And when Joe Flacco entered the picture, things looked like they were about to go south in a hurry. The Browns turned to Flacco at the start of December and they got beat pretty bad by the Los Angeles Rams. Even though Flacco played a good game against the Rams statistically, nobody really felt like there was anything to indicate Cleveland could still make a playoff push with all of their injuries.
Since that Rams game, Flacco and the Browns have ripped off four straight wins and he's averaging over 300 yards passing per start. He's got 13 touchdown passes, almost as many as he had the last three seasons combined (14).
Flacco is not just playing good football for the Browns -- he's playing at an elite level. And that's always been the joke with Flacco, hasn't it? John Elway infamously said back in 2019 when the Broncos traded for Flacco that he felt the veteran was still in his "prime". Elway was laughed at for making those comments when he did, and then obviously Flacco's poor play as a member of the Broncos validated the laughter.
Flacco has not played at the level we're currently seeing since he was a member of the Baltimore Ravens back in 2014. His touchdown percentage is the highest it's ever been as a starting QB (6.4 percent). The Browns have unleashed Flacco and he's built great chemistry with Amari Cooper, David Njoku, and head coach Kevin Stefanski rather quickly.
When you combine the shock factor of Flacco's play with just the outstanding level he's playing at overall, it's one thing. When you add in the fact that Flacco and the Browns are now 11-5 going into the final week of the season with everything they've had to deal with this season?
There is no doubt that Flacco's emergence and fit with the Browns is the craziest story in a crazy NFL season.