Pressure comes in different forms on Sundays in the NFL, a fact that will be on display at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland when the Browns host the Green Bay Packers.
The Browns (0-12) are trying to avoid being the only team besides the 2008 Detroit Lions to lose all games in a 16-game season. There is certainly pressure there, especially since they are playing in front of their local audience.
The Packers (6-6) are still searching for a wild card spot in the NFC, but they can not afford to lose, especially to a team with no wins. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys are also 6-6, while the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers are 8-4 and the Atlanta Falcons are 7-5. Only two wild cards are available for those six teams.
Helping Green Bay is a face-to-face victory over the Seahawks in the first game and a date with the Panthers in Charlotte a week after playing the Browns.
Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, recovering from a clavicle fracture, is eligible to return for the game with the Panthers. However, that game will not have much meaning if they do not beat the Browns first.
"We need to win this game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. "That's really all that matters, we would be fools or we would waste our time thinking or talking about something other than coming to Cleveland and playing our best football, we are focused on everything we have to do to win this game."
The Browns are having another chance to become spoilers. In the four weeks before the game with the Packers played the Lions, Jaguars, Bengals and Chargers. All four teams were in playoff races when they played Cleveland. His postseason opportunities increased when the game ended.
Sunday's game is also another step in the development of rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. The best three Kizer games so far were the first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the game against the Lions on November 1
There is a pattern in the success he had in those three games. Kizer had extra time to prepare for the Steelers as it was the first game and extra time to prepare for the Lions because that game followed the goodbye. He did not have extra time to study the Bengals, but he faced them earlier (October 1) in the season.
"Obviously, there's going to be a very famous team this week with Green Bay that I've been able to look at and see some of the successes they've had as a team," Kizer said. "Now, I have to discover how to plan a game, develop myself and put myself in a position to go out and try to fight against a team that has always been very successful."
Third-year quarterback Brett Hundley will start at Green Bay instead of Rodgers. He was the quarterback who won the Packers 26-20 in overtime against the Buccaneers last week, but did it by completing 13 of 22 passes for 84 yards. He was fired twice and posted a passer rating of 48.3.
"He knows how difficult it is to win in December and the importance of these games," said McCarthy. "We're going to prepare him, we're going to do a good job and make sure he gets what he needs on Sunday to be productive."
The Packers rushed for 199 yards against the Buccaneers. Rookie Jamaal Williams ran for 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Putting similar numbers against the Browns' home defense will not be easy. Cleveland occupies the tenth general defensive position and the sixth in terrestrial defense. Cracks in the defense have recently appeared, however. Jaguar rookie runner Leonard Fournette ran for 111 yards on November 19. A week later, Bengals rookie Joe Mixon rushed for 114 yards.
Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams challenged his line to dominate the line of scrimmage. They answered the challenge last week, keeping the Chargers 94 yards on 25 carries. Star runner Melvin Gordon ran for 77 yards on 19 attempts.
Cleveland will need a similar defensive effort to derail the Packers.
"I see them running soccer," Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. "That means we have to do everything we can to stop the race and improve our gaps, do those things and see if we can get the young quarterback to throw the ball."
Both teams are grappling with injuries Inner linebacker Jake Ryan (neck / disease), cornerback Davon House (shoulder) and defensive lineman Quinton Dial (chest / knee) did not train with the Packers on Wednesday.
Jabrill Peppers (knee), cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) and defensive lineman Danny Shelton (chest / ribs) did not train with the Browns.