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Mailbag: Can Browns get hot and win next four?

Q: In your estimation, can the Browns run the table and win their next four games? What might prevent this from happening?

— @MrEd315

A: Sure, they can. If the Browns get competent quarterback play, they can beat anyone on their schedule.

However, as I sit here Sunday morning before the Cardinals game, I wouldn’t predict a sweep. Let’s break down the slate: vs. Arizona today, at Baltimore next week, vs. the Steelers and at Denver.

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Dawand Jones active, in starting lineup despite shoulder injury

I’d expect the Browns to be favored vs. everyone but the Ravens, which means they have a legitimate chance to sweep. I have them beating the Cardinals relatively easily and think they’ll get revenge on the Steelers for the Monday night debacle in Week 2. That leaves the pair of road games. A split of those two would leave the Browns 7-4 and in good position to finish the run to the playoffs. The Broncos aren’t good but just upset the Chiefs and have coach Sean Payton, so the Browns will have to play well. It’s too far down the road, and too much can happen, for me to make a final prediction, but I like the Browns’ chances.

Where the sweep gets troublesome is in Baltimore. The Ravens are 6-2, getting healthy and Lamar Jackson looks like his former MVP self. That’s also a tough place to play. I’m not saying the Browns can’t pull the upset, but they’ll need to be on top of their game and I need to see Deshaun Watson vs. the Cardinals before I can think about stealing one in Crab Cake City.

Jordan Elliott attacked his self-doubt and is now attacking offenses more freely

One final point: It’s difficult in this league to win four straight, period. Even if the Browns win the next three, the odds could catch up with them in Denver.

Q: With the injury to Watson, should the game plan remain similar to the last few weeks or do you open it back up?

— @DrRPH08

A: I’d stay with the P.J. Walker plan, even with the $230 million quarterback back in the fold.

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First of all, Watson has played 12 snaps since Sept. 24, so he should be eased into things. Secondly, coach Kevin Stefanski is hellbent on stopping the parade of turnovers. That’s easier to do with a buttoned-up game plan — even if Walker couldn’t do it. Finally, Watson’s shoulder remains a concern to some degree. The fewer chances for him to take a shot to it the better, at least for one more week.

And one more thing … the run game has rediscovered its form over the last three weeks. So stick with the hot hand.

Q: Joshua Dobbs gets traded to Minnesota for a sixth-round pick after Cleveland traded him in August for a swap of late-round picks. Did the Browns know or sense that Watson would be coming back and do they feel comfortable enough that he will be on the field going forward that trading for Dobbs or another quality backup quarterback for a sixth-round pick was not necessary? I just find it confusing in some ways that a team that says it is playing for the playoffs would value a sixth-round pick over a far more experienced and competent backup quarterback.

— Phil from Brooklyn

A: A great question that gets to the heart of things.

I believe the main reason the Browns didn’t add a quarterback at the trade deadline was the confidence that Watson would return and stay healthy. They got the first part right, as Watson will start against the Cardinals. The second part remains to be seen and will determine the Browns’ fortunes over the rest of the season.

I understand the organization’s thinking. If your franchise quarterback is healthy and on the field, the backup is a non-factor. I also understand your point. The season shouldn’t be punted on if Watson happened to get hurt again. And a sixth-round pick isn’t anything to give up for a little peace of mind — especially with the miss rate of late-round selections.

The front office better hope Watson stays healthy, or else it will have to answer some difficult questions from ownership.

Q: Should the Browns try to target David Njoku more often?

— John Palazzo

A: Yes.

You looking for more? Just kidding.

We’ve seen an uptick in Njoku’s targets and production the last couple of weeks and I certainly think that should continue. He caught four passes in eight targets for 77 yards and a touchdown in Seattle after five catches in nine targets for 54 yards vs. the Colts. For the season, he’s been targeted 39 times with 28 catches, 293 yards and a TD.

He’s one of the team’s best playmakers and was great during training camp but got off to a slow start. Perhaps the return of Watson will further unlock Njoku, especially in the red zone.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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