Thank god we're back to football. Looking at the season schedule, I can only see two possible outcomes for us. Either the Browns will enter the last month of the season with a decent record (6-5, 5-6) or better, resulting in an exciting race among AFC North teams, or we're going to be set up for some soul crushing despair.
Looking first on the brighter side, I think it's very possible to amass 5-7 victories through November. Playing the NFC West this season is definitely going to improve our chances of being around or above .500 coming into the final stretch. It's unlikely that the Ravens or Steelers are going to improve this year through free agency as they are both over the salary cap. The Bengals look to be in the worst shape we've seen them in the last decade, and that's saying something. With 5 of the 6 division games coming at the end of the season (the only non-division game coming against Arizona, we should be able to pull out a win), if we can carry some momentum in to the final stretch we could end up being contenders for a playoff spot by our final game against the Steelers.
It's at this point the rational part of my brain kicks in and reminds me that I'm a Browns fan. A team with a new coach, new systems on both offense and defense, and without the benefit of a full training camp. The NFC West is going to have at least one fairly good team this year in St. Louis. San Fran or Seattle could be decent. Besides Oakland, every other non-conference team we play is capable of being at .500 or better by the end of the season.
I stand by what I said earlier, the Steelers and Ravens are unlikely to be improved. That being said, they're both playoff caliber teams, and don't need to improve to beat the Browns this year. We have a good shot at beating the Bengals in both games we play them this year, the second of those games being the last week in November and starting off the division stretch. I fully expect the Ravens and Steelers to be competing for playoff spots in December. By that point in the year, they're likely to be at the top of their game. There's a very real chance that we're going to lose all four of those games leaving us with a bitter taste in our mouths all off-season.