Having been eliminated from postseason contention a week ago, the Cleveland Browns don't seemingly have anything to play for in their regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Head coach Freddie Kitchens, however, could be coaching for his job.
Two weeks ago, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the Browns planned on retaining Kitchens as their head coach for 2020 "barring a horrific collapse." In the two games since, Cleveland has lost to the Arizona Cardinals 38-24 and the Baltimore Ravens 31-15, dropping its record to 6-9 heading into its Week 17 matchup in Cincinnati.
Apparently, those results haven't been "horrific" enough for Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam to make a decision on Kitchens' future. According to Rapoport, Cleveland's ownership remains undecided on Kitchens' fate and a win vs. the 1-14 Bengals could be enough to help him save his job.
"The future of Browns coach Freddie Kitchens is undecided as well, though it appears the desired outcome for owner Jimmy Haslam is to keep him," writes Rapoport. "A rough skid to end the season that included a loss to the lowly Bengals would be bad. But those with deep knowledge of the Browns point out a few facts: Quarterback Baker Mayfield and his injured group of WRs have barely practiced this year. And winning seven games, if it happens, was within the realm of expectations inside the building.
"They understood many of the new players brought in do not have a history of winning and that takes time. Plus, Kitchens has done a much better job in the second half of the year guiding the players and instilling discipline. His future has not been decided, but many involved hope and believe he stays."
While the Browns enter Sunday as a 3-point favorite against the Bengals, their recent track record hardly indicates a win -- especially on the road -- is a given. Despite its record, Cincinnati lays claim to a talented collection of offensive players, including running back Joe Mixon, who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown in the Browns' 27-19 victory over the Bengals in Week 14.
If Mixon finds similar success on Sunday, it could spell trouble for a Cleveland offense that has sputtered in recent weeks. And for what it's worth, while the Browns are favored vs. the Bengals, oddsmakers also believe they'll make a change, with Kitchens listed as a -160 favorite to be fired, according to sportsbetting.ag.