The Cleveland Browns have shown they can beat the NFL’s worst teams, and can come nowhere near the league’s elite clubs.
Where does that leave them? Basically, in the middle of the pack.
With victories against the Football Team, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals, those clubs have a combined record of 4-12-1. They also bested the Indianapolis Colts who are currently 4-2-0 with a terrific defense and are considered to be similar to the Browns as both just barely defeated the Bengals.
But against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, clubs who are currently 5-1-0 and 5-0-0 respectively, they got absolutely clobbered in each contest.
What does all this mean? The Browns can beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and are still several pieces away from being a serious contender.
Cleveland needs another stud pass rusher, two linebackers and at least one more safety to pair with this year’s second-round draft pick Grant Delpit. It will take a while to see if third rounder Jacob Phillips can become one of those linebackers. The defensive tackle position may also need to be reviewed, but remember Cleveland signed Andrew Billings who opted out and also drafted Jordan Elliott in Round 3; so this position may not be in bad shape.
The offense seems to be set although soon enough, several contracts will have to be evaluated and expect many huge paydays or key players leaving for greener pastures.
After this year, GM Andrew Berry will know whether QB Baker Mayfield is indeed the franchise guy he was drafted to be, or just another signalcaller who called Cleveland home for a few seasons. For the time being, he still has issues reading defenses and if flushed from the pocket can be a tornado where no one knows what will happen next - good or bad.
This year, the NFL has bumped the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14. Both the AFC and NFC will enter seven clubs into the post-season instead of an even six franchises.
Instead of the top two seeds receiving a bye, only the Number 1 club will get the bye week. This places Number 2 versus 7, Number 3 will take on 6, and then four and five will face off.
This could calculate that an 8-8-0 team can make the playoffs – or perhaps even a squad that finishes 7-9-0.
If the season were to end right now, the Browns would become the fifth seed and play either fourth-seeded Kansas City or Buffalo.
Of course the season is still young. Anything can happen. There are plenty of games remaining on the schedule that will ensure that Cleveland will make the post-season since their last appearance in 2002. Since that time during the “Wasteland Years”, the franchise has had only one winning record in 2007 with a 10-6-0 record yet didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
What will happen from this point on? Will the Browns continue to defeat the weak and fold to the upper echelon of NFL hierarchy? What will be their final record? Will they get into the playoffs? Will 2020 begin like 2014 with a 7-4-0 record only to fall flat and not finish with a winning record?
The schedule will tell you
Let’s look at the remaining games and see which games the Browns could (and should) win, and which ones they will probably lose.
The easier thing is to take the powerhouses and almost elite clubs and just flick those games into the loss column. Those are Week 8 at home against the Las Vegas Raiders, Week 13 at the Tennessee Titans, Week 14 at home against the Ravens, and when the Steelers visit in Week 17.
Yes, on the surface the Browns have a chance of beating the Raiders. Or do they? They are currently 3-2-0. Their two losses were to New England and Buffalo; which neither club is too shabby. And their wins? Carolina, New Orleans and gave the Kansas City Chiefs their only loss. Anyone who can defeat powerhouse teams are another level, so this game is placed in the Browns’ loss column.
Now, for the remaining games.
Next up this weekend, the Bengals (1-4-1). They have the 30th ranked run defense but are excellent against the pass. In Week 2, Cleveland won 35-30 but was up 28-13 and had an issue with putting the Bengals away mainly because Cincy had 88 offensive plays to the Browns’ 58. Cleveland gained 215 rushing yards to exploit the Bengals run defense deficiency. If Cleveland can run the ball just as effectively, the game should not even be close and result in a WIN.
The Houston Texans (1-5-0) visit and sport a very potent offense. QB Deshaun Watson is a very good, crafty player who does not see any quit regardless of the score. Cleveland’s pass defense is ranked Number 20 vs. the Texans Number 9 passing attack. That is an issue. However, Houston is dead last in defense of the run and the Browns are built to run. It’s possible that Nick Chubb could return this week or the following game. This is a pick ‘em game as either club could take the victory. TO BE DETERMINED
Next up are the Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1) who are beatable and reside in the worst division in the league. Like the Browns, the Eagles can run the ball. Currently, Cleveland is Number 11 in rushing defense so this will be the storyline. However, Philly’s offense is atrocious and has a problem not only scoring, but has attempted the second worst number of third downs which means they can’t get rolling on first or second downs. Their offensive line has been a revolving door of anybody that can remain healthy. No QB has been hit or sacked more than Carson Wentz which plays right into the hands of the Browns’ defensive front. The Eagles are in the bottom third in both run and pass defense. WIN
The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5-0) are a very bad team. Their defense has allowed the third most points and is Number 31 against the run. We all know what that means for the Browns. No more narrative just give the Browns the WIN.
This begins back-to-back weeks the Browns play on the road against both the New York clubs. It is almost a certainty that Cleveland will simply stay somewhere in New Jersey for this stretch. First up is the pitiful Football Giants (1-6-0) who are the third worst scoring club in the NFL. Giants’ QB Daniel Jones has been pressured 95 times, more than any other quarterback in the league. The Browns will add to that number. New York is decent against the run (17) while their pass defense is horrible. Their offense is near the bottom of almost every offensive category. How they even got a win is anyone’s guess - oh wait, they beat the Football Team. Never mind. WIN
As bad as the Football Giants are, the New York Jets (0-6-0) are dramatically worse and most likely will have the number one overall pick in next year’s draft. Someone should tell Clemson junior QB Trevor Lawrence to remain in school for his senior season to avoid playing for the Jets. Their offense is averaging 12.5 points per game, 25th in run defense and 22nd in defending the pass. If you are betting, take the Browns and the 24 points. WIN
Currently, the Browns are 4-2-0. In this article, it has earmarked four definite losses plus five games the club should win for a cumulative record of 9-6-0. The lone question mark is if Cleveland can escape Houston’s high-scoring offense, or if they lose that game.
The lop-sided losses to the Ravens and Steelers tell every Cleveland fan exactly where the 2020 Browns stand: they are a mid-level club. They aren’t going to win the Super Bowl because they aren’t going to the Super Bowl.
There. Now you know. In fact, it kinda takes the pressure off being a Browns’ fan. It’s like watching a recorded game that you already know the final score. The expectations are lowered - and that’s okay for this year. Their win-loss record is on the plus side each week, which is friggin’ awesome.
This year’s club is much improved. The offensive line is pretty daggum good. Which team in the league has a better running back or tight end combo? The defensive line holds it own and the takeaway ratio is excellent. Cleveland has a great punter and long-snapper, and finally a dependable kicker. The head coach is finally a solid one.
Remember last year when penalties and turnovers killed the season? Well this year, the Browns are only 19th in penalties accepted with the most called offensive holding.
Look at turnover differential. Last year, Cleveland was ranked 26th with a -8. Already in 2020, that has flipped to a ratio of +4 with a Number 6 ranking. The main cog to getting that rating higher are the interceptions Mayfield has thrown - tied for fifth most through six games. Gaze at the list of the teams just above the Browns with a higher turnover number: Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers. What do all these clubs have in common? They are this year’s cream with a combined record of 25-2-0. Cleveland is just outside those clubs a smidge in this department.
And this year, finally the “Wasteland Years” 17-year drought comes to a close. The Browns should not only have a winning record, but unless they completely cave, will make the playoffs.
9-7-0 or 10-6-0? Yeh, that’s not only possible – but probable.
What say you? How many wins will the Browns finish with?
This poll is closed
11 or higher
7 wins or fewer