Fans paying full price for the preseason finale against Chicago may complain that the game is meaningless. And perhaps it is to them. But it could be the most important game in the lives of many Browns.
After all, they want to still be Browns on Friday night.
Final cuts are weighing on the minds of players at nearly all positions. But they're trying to prevent the pressure from affecting their performances. Among them is rookie fullback Brad Smelley, who is battling Owen Marecic for a roster spot, though both might be kept if one of the top four tight ends is released.
Smelley won't make the team if he hasn't convinced the coaches that he can thrive as a lead blocker and on special teams, as he did at Alabama.
"[Thursday's game] is important, but it's not going to change my game," he said. "I try to compete and win every individual battle. That's how I approach every game. I don't care if I'm playing cards against my grandmother. I try to win. I'm going to play hard against the Bears with mental energy and focus."
Wide receiver Jordan Norwood appears to be a lock for a roster spot, which doesn't bode well for rookie Josh Cooper, who played with starting quarterback Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State. Cooper flashed early in camp, but has been quiet since. He hopes he has shown enough versatility to stick. Cooper could fit in as a slot receiver, but it's hard to imagine the Browns keeping seven wideouts.
"I have a good grasp of the playbook," Cooper said. "They were working me just inside when camp started, but now they're working me inside and outside."
More impressive in camp has been linebacker Craig Robertson, who played particularly well in preseason games against Detroit and Green Bay. Robertson, who has seven tackles and one interception, is listed second on the depth chart on the weak side behind Kaluka Maiava.
"I can't view this is as a [final audition]," Robertson said about Thursday's game. "I look at it as just another evening to have fun. That's how I have to look at it. I can't put pressure on myself."
Robertson added that he's been playing on all the first-team special team units in camp. The ability to thrive on special teams will make or break several Browns.
Good rush, bad rush?: One concern as the regular season closes in is the pass rush. Defensive end and free agent acquisition Juqua Parker has recorded the only Browns sack in three preseason games.
Second-year defensive end Jabaal Sheard showed promise in that area last season with a team-high 8.5 sacks. Parker and rookie tackle Billy Winn are noted pass-rushers, but linebackers Scott Fujita and D'Qwell Jackson are not blitzers. But Shurmur does not favor getting the linebackers involved in the pass-rush outside of nickel situations.
"Any defensive coordinator will tell you that the best scenario is if you get pressure in a four-man rush," he said. "That's when you don't have to be heroic and have to [compromise] your coverage. Guys on this roster who are very good blitzers are typically outside guys."
No secret now -- Weeden out: Shurmur joked as he met with the media on Tuesday that he was giving away a few secrets. Among them was that starting QB Brandon Weeden won't play against the Bears on Thursday night. Another is that rookie linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who was placed on injured reserve, has a knee injury.
Tackle trouble?: Shurmur said that veteran tackle Oniel Cousins needs to return from an undisclosed injury. But the coach added that Ryan Greco can play that position "in a pinch." Shurmur, however, conceded that Greco is better suited to play guard or center.
Cousins is a strong possibility to be cut or waived/injured. Greco and rookie Ryan Miller are the only backup offensive linemen who appear safe.