While the Browns have a very talented roster on paper, their recent and decades-long history of struggles and drama makes them a poor bet until they prove otherwise. On the other hand, the roster is just too good to ignore the possibility that Cleveland could be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February of 2024.
For the Browns, the road to the Super Bowl starts in Week 1 against the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals. The division is tough with four quality teams but the conference is even more difficult to navigate with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs leading the way.
Given all of that, placing bets on the AFC to be owned by Cleveland would take some guts.
According to Bill Barnwell of ESPN (subscriber, $), the Browns have a 2% shot at winning the big game, the 14th best in the league. They also have a 44.1% chance of making the playoffs. Obviously, QB Deshaun Watson is the big story but Barnwell has an interesting quote when discussing Cleveland’s Super Bowl aspirations:
There might not be a team with a higher ceiling and lower floor this season than the Browns, which makes them the perfect team for this exercise. Crucially, they have the players who could create problems for each of the top teams in the AFC. They can rush Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow with four. They can run the ball on the Chiefs and Chargers. I’m not sure they can stop the run, but unless the Ravens make a deep trip into the postseason, the Browns would generally be facing pass-happy offenses.
Cleveland has tried to build a defense around stopping the pass for years but never really invested in the defensive line to do so. Given their struggles against the run, teams have also prioritized the rushing attack against the Browns even if their strength was as a passing offense.
With Week 1 kicking off on Thursday night, we will see a downturn in many of the year-long related predictions for a few weeks. Super Bowl talk is fine until toe hits pigskin. Sunday, Cleveland gets its first chance at proving they can be real Super Bowl contenders. Win or lose, that hope won’t change but the hype might.
Do you agree with Barnwell that the Browns have players to create problems for the AFC? Join the community in the comment section below where our staff will also be there to chat with you.