NFL: Carson Wentz, Commanders can help playoff chances with win vs. Browns

The Washington Commanders will look to keep their postseason hopes alive when they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon in Landover, Md.

The Commanders (7-7-1) finished December with a 0-2-1 mark but still control their playoff destiny.

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Washington can clinch its second playoff berth in three seasons with a win over the Browns combined with a Detroit home loss to the Chicago Bears, a Seattle home loss to the New York Jets and a Green Bay home loss to Minnesota.

If Washington wins but doesn’t get the other three results needed, the Commanders will need to win their season finale at home against Dallas on the final weekend to assure a playoff spot.

Quarterback Carson Wentz replaced the benched Taylor Heinicke in last Saturday’s road loss at San Francisco and will start this week for the Commanders.

Wentz completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in relief of Heinicke, who was 13 of 18 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“It felt good. It felt weird, not going to lie,” Wentz said of his relief role. “It’s a new experience for me at this level. It was good to be back out there. Obviously, coming up short is never fun. I feel for Taylor, too. I thought he played well. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done.”

Washington safety Kamren Curl traveled to San Francisco but missed Saturday’s game against the 49ers with an ankle injury.

Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne has 9.5 sacks this season and needs just a half-sack to become the second defensive tackle in franchise history with double-figure sacks in a season.

Dave Butz had a team-record 11.5 sacks from the defensive tackle spot in 1983.

The Browns (6-9) were eliminated last Saturday when they lost at home to New Orleans 17-10. They will post their second straight losing season under head coach Kevin Stefanski.

“We do want to finish strong,” Stefanski said. “We understand the scenario we’re in, but we also understand we have an opportunity this week versus Washington and another opportunity the next week. That’s really where our focus is.”

Quarterback Deshaun Watson is 2-2 in four starts since returning from his 11-game suspension to start the season. Watson is coming off a poor start in the cold weather on Christmas Eve, completing just 15 of 31 passes for 135 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Cleveland starting right tackle Jack Conklin signed a four-year contract extension Monday that will keep him with the Browns through 2026.

Conklin, Cleveland’s 2022 Ed Block Courage Award winner, recovered from a torn patellar tendon injury that ended his 2021 season prematurely. Conklin has played every game at right tackle for the Browns this season after coming back in Week 3.

“It’s really exciting,” Conklin said. “I’m happy to be a part of this organization for longer. … I’m a Midwest guy and I love Midwest people. I’m from Michigan and my wife (Caitlyn) is from Cleveland, so this is home.”

The Browns could not overcome a 2-5 start to the season, despite home wins over AFC North leader Cincinnati on Halloween and second-place Baltimore on Dec. 17.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Conklin said. “We played this game to go to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, and not having that chance the last two years is frustrating. I think we really need to take a look at ourselves and figure out what we can do better at and what we’re good at and move forward with those things and really just come together as a team, be able to have our full team together.”

–Field Level Media

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