Now that some personnel decisions and draft trades have occurred, I took another look at the upcoming season's Home and Away opponents. One thing is for sure, The Browns need to find a way to take advantage of their "Twelfth Man". Of course, with the exception of the 2007 season in which The Browns won 7 of 8 home games, this could have been said every year since 1999. The home wins since 1999, if you need the painful refresher, are in chronological order as follows; 0,2,4,3,2,2,4,2,7,1,3,3 and 3.
That's not going to cut it this season. Average less than 3 home wins this year and we'll be "Blowing for Barkley". Here's why;
2012 Opponents (Away)
As always, we have our 3 division road games. I always used to pretend that it was reasonable to expect splitting the division games. That was pre-1999, and I can't tell myself that any longer. If we can take 1 of the 3 on the road it would be an improvement.
Denver Broncos. Well now, the face of this game has changed just a bit in the last few weeks, hasn't it? The Browns have always been competitive in games started by Peyton Manning for some reason, but will that be the case in Denver? A very tough defense that was able to keep Tim Tebow in games is now on the on the other side of Manning's offense. It will be very interesting to see how opposing defenses fare in the thin air against that hurry-up style of ball.
Oakland Raiders. Another team that the Browns always seem to stay in the game with on the road. At this point it's hard to know what to make of The Raiders. Will Carson Palmer improve with more time in the offense and a real offseason? Will Jason Campbell push or even supplant Palmer? This team also has some injury concerns at Running Back that make a prediction difficult this early. This may be one of the "winnable" Road games of the season.
Indianapolis Colts. This is my pick for the highest probability of a road win. I am already hearing predictions that this team could be in the running for the number one overall pick again next year and I can get on board with that. Their off-season losses seem too great to be overcome simply by the addition of Luck. I realize they will be drafting at the top of every round, but this will be a young team with a rookie QB, a bad defense, and a new coaching staff/front office. Could be painful for Colts fans for a few years.
Dallas Cowboys. If this game were being played in Cleveland I'd feel like the playing field may be a little more even, as the Cowboys can be a completely different team on the road.
last, but certainly not least, the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. You can tout the Browns record against the previous seasons Super Bowl winner if you'd like, but you won't improve my outlook of this game.
So, with some improvement expected from our Browns, how many "Away" wins can we reasonably expect, 3, maybe 4? Matching our previous seasons win total on the road seems very optimistic.
2012 Opponents (Home)
Start again with our division Opponents. After not winning a single game against a division opponent last year, optimistically picking one road win, can we really pick more than one division win at home?
Kansas City Chiefs. I fully expect this team to improve and play for Romeo, where as they may have not for Todd Haley. The Browns Defenses Achilles heel last year was the running game. Romeo is the type of coach to throw a player like Peyton Hillis a bone in a homecoming game and Jamaal Charles is no slouch. Their passing game now has a back-up plan in Orton, and the Defense is solid. This game is certainly no walkover.
San Diego Chargers. The cross country trip works to our advantage in this case, the lack of our Linebackers ability to cover a Tight End does not. A good, solid, perennial playoff contending team that is probably several years ahead of the Browns in depth.
Buffalo Bills. A team this on the rise. If Fred Jackson returns healthy and productive (low mileage, but over 30) this offense could pick up where they left off. It's the second year of a Defensive rebuild with the addition of Super Mario. Could the Bills finally contend in their division?
Philadelphia Eagles. Who knows what to make of The Dream Team after last year? I can't begin to dissect this one, other than to say the gap in talent is huge in this game. Can The Eagles be the team everyone expected them to be last season?
The Washington Redskins. I hope the schedule makers slot this as our home opener. Our fan base would be suicidal (or homicidal) if this team comes in late in the season and the RGIII to Pierre Garçon combo torches the Browns. Let's catch them early, before they have a chance to gel.
It may be a little early for this type of analysis, but as we all know, the draft talk is getting stale and we're still a few weeks out. So, who's side will you take after reading this - TLP, or TLO's? Personally, I feel 6 wins is being optimistic. As sad as I am to say it.