BEREA — One might say the Browns can really get someplace if they win their season finale at the Baltimore Ravens.
It would be a victory over a team that just trounced the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers and is in position to win the AFC North.
Or one might take the view of the AFC North team the Browns beat in their most recent game. The Cincinnati Bengals left Cleveland saying the Browns mysteriously looked like a team that has arrived.
"What's different about the Browns? They're a well-put-together team," Bengals nose tackle Andrew Billings said. "That is really different.
"There's 11 guys out there. Every time. They have a lot of good weapons on the offense and good weapons on the defense.
"It's a different energy. It's not the old Browns. It's a high-energy offense now."
The Bengals' defense isn't the Ravens' defense. The Bengals rank No. 32 in yards allowed. The Ravens rank No. 1.
Still, the 493 yards racked up by Baker Mayfield's group was nearly 100 yards more than the Bengals have allowed on average.
Plus, the Browns gained the respect of some accomplished veterans.
"It's good to see the rivalry's heating up," said ninth-year pro Carlos Dunlap, a defensive end who has been to two recent Pro Bowls. "They have a lot of promising young players. Good for them."
Beating the Bengals gave the Browns a 3-1-1 record in the AFC North, on the heels of going 1-17 against the division from 2015-17. One of this year's wins was 12-9 in overtime against the Ravens.
"They're very passionate," Dunlap said. "They've been in a place they haven't liked and ... again, good for them. We're not doing what we need to do right now. I'm frustrated about being last in the division."
The Browns' only 2018 stinker in division play was a loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers, after which coach Hue Jackson got fired. Even in that game, the Browns lined up for a field goal to take a 9-0 lead before things fell apart.
The Browns had shaky endings to both wins over the Bengals, but in each, they showed signs of having blown past the Bengals. They led 35-7 at Cincinnati and 26-3 at Cleveland.
"The Browns are a much improved team from last year," Bengals linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. said. "They're playing with a lot of great energy and confidence.
"With winning comes confidence. You can tell they're buying into their program. Shoot, I feel like from here on out, it's going to be a fun series.
"I've got a lot of respect for their whole team, a lot of respect for Baker and their offense."
Mayfield is part of a changing of the guard among AFC quarterbacks. Rookie Lamar Jackson has replaced Joe Flacco for the Ravens. Andy Dalton is on injured reserve for a Bengals team finishing out of the playoffs a third consecutive year. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is going on 37.
Mayfield is becoming a conspicuous presence not just in the division but in the league. According to online sports betting site Bovada, he has pulled ahead of Saquon Barkley as odds-on favorite to be Offensive Rookie of the Year
"I've been playing Baker for years," said Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard, a rookie out of Ohio State. "He's a competitive dude, and he talks a lot. Obviously, he backs it up.
"His decision making is impressive. We were rushing hard. He was getting the ball out fast. It looked like he knew where he wanted to go with the ball before it was even snapped. He was slinging it. That's the sign of a good quarterback. He's come a long way in that respect.
"We got some stops at the end. We were getting closer and closer. We were getting our hands on him."
The Ravens do get their mitts on quarterbacks. Sixteen different players have accounted for the team's 43 sacks (the Browns' defense has 35).
As noted above, the Ravens' defense is ranked No. 1. That's part of what makes this game prime time for the Browns delivering a closing argument.
As Mayfield puts it, "I still have to be myself. I still have to let it loose and play fearless, make those throws that I have been making, trust our guys to make those plays.”
If the Browns play their cards right and end the year with back-to-back wins against AFC North teams, they will have gone from 0-16 to 8-7-1.