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NFL picks and predictions, Browns vs. Falcons 2014: Opinion mixed on playoff contenders

Opinions differ on the validity of Cleveland's football team.

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Because of the wacky AFC North, the Cleveland Browns find themselves squarely in playoff contention entering Week 12. A road win over the Atlanta Falcons is of vital importance given their remaining schedule.

Though the Browns rarely win pretty, they've found a way to get to 6-4, a game out of the top spot in their division. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has played a large role in that, providing solid if unspectacular play. While questions persist about his long-term viability as Cleveland's starter, the calls for Johnny Football have largely dissipated. The team gets a boost this week as superstar wide receiver Josh Gordon returns from a 10-game suspension for violating the leagues' substance abuse policy. Gordon led all player last season with over 1,600 receiving yards in only 14 games.

As for the Falcons, they went over an entire month earlier this season without a single win or draw. The running game has been virtually nonexistent for much of the season as veteran Steven Jackson can no longer sustain a ground attack and Davonta Freeman and the now-injured Antone Smith are rotational players at best. The defense too has endured its share of struggles, allowing the 23rd most points per game in the league. Like the rest of their underwhelming division, Atlanta is in position to win a playoff spot with a losing record.

The forecast for this game varies widely depending on where you look. Over at CBS Sports, five members of their eight-man panel sided with Atlanta.

CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco had this to say about the game:

Josh Gordon returns for the Browns, but the defense is their issue. That's never a good thing against the Falcons. Matt Ryan will have a big day. They are home for the first time in over a month. They play like it, and get to 5-6.

The opinion is rather different here at SB Nation, where five of our seven experts are leaning towards the Browns.

Ryan Van Bibber Stephen White David Fucillo Danny Kelly PFT Commenter Matt Ufford Joel Thorman


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