Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL on Friday for the rest of the 2019 season (and potentially beyond), and that development could have a bit of an impact on the AFC playoff race.
The Browns still have to play the Baltimore Ravens once more this season. The two AFC North rivals will meet in Cleveland for a Week 16 matchup. The Ravens (7-2) are one game behind the New England Patriots (8-1) for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race entering Week 11, and Cleveland could have been a tricky matchup for Baltimore.
Cleveland actually beat Baltimore earlier this season. The Browns earned a 40-25 win on the road, and the Ravens haven't lost since. The Browns defense did a very good job keeping Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in check that afternoon. Jackson threw two interceptions, fumbled once, was sacked four times and got hit six times. Garrett tallied only one tackle in this win, but he drew many double teams that gave other Browns defensive players 1-on-1 matchups to exploit.
The loss of Garrett for the upcoming Week 16 matchup should make the Ravens' challenge of protecting Jackson a lot easier. Could Cleveland still beat Baltimore without Garrett? Absolutely, but the 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick is arguably the Browns' best player. Garrett tallied 10 sacks (tied for the third-most in the league), 20 tackles and two forced fumbles in 10 games this season.
The Browns also play the Steelers again in Week 13. Pittsburgh still has a chance to squeeze into a playoff spot in the AFC, but it's now a half-game out of a wild-card berth after Thursday night's Week 11 defeat.
The Ravens already had an easier schedule than the Patriots for the remainder of the regular season, and Garrett's suspension makes Baltimore's path even less difficult. The Patriots have a tough four-game stretch beginning Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, and they have little room for error. The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Patriots after beating the defending Super Bowl champions 37-20 in Baltimore two weeks ago.
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