- Codey Larsen
Your Back-To-Back Preseason Champions: The Cleveland Browns
On February 12, 2019, the Cleveland Browns made a franchise-altering decision. Cleveland traded for game-changing wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. from the New York Giants. The trade for Beckham gave the fans and the league a clear indication that the Browns were done being the laughing stock of the league.
Plenty of people, in and outside of the media world, viewed the Browns as locks for the playoffs before the 2019-2020 season. Some even going as far as saying they could win the Super Bowl. And then, general manager John Dorsey hired Freddie Kitchens as head coach, and all of that changed. A 6-10 season saw Kitchens be the latest Browns coach to be fired in the last twenty years.
For about the fifth-or-sixth time (I have lost count, I do not know the exact number) since 1999, the Browns will start a season with a brand new general manager and head coach. Cleveland also made a flurry of free agency moves that include tight end Austin Hooper and offensive tackle Jack Conklin. Cleveland had a stellar draft as well. Now, media members and fans are once again on the Browns-going-to-the-playoffs bandwagon. The 2020 schedule for the Cleveland Browns was released last week, and when looking at the schedule, there’s a good possibility of them making the postseason. In this article, I will be dissecting their schedule and picking the games as to who I think will win. Let’s hope when Cleveland hosts the draft next spring, they will not be picking at the top.
Week 1: @ Baltimore Ravens (14-2 last season; 11.5 over/under for wins in 2020)
The Ravens have one of the top three quarterbacks in the league, a great running game, underrated receivers, and a stellar defense. The over/under for the Ravens win total for this season is 11.5, and I would not be surprised to see them win more than 11 games. However, if there ever was a time for a team to be caught off guard, this would be it. The Browns have not won a season opener since 2004--when they played on the road against Baltimore--and all streaks come to an end eventually. Let’s give the Browns a tally in the win column, 21-17.
Running record: 1-0
Week 2: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14 last season; 5 o/u for 2020)
Rookie phenom quarterback Joe Burrow versus third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield and Bengals stud running back Joe Mixon and Browns star running back Nick Chubb will headline the early Battle For Ohio--which will be on Thursday Night Football on FOX as well.With the game being on Thursday, and if the Browns come into the game riding a win against the Ravens, then this could definitely be a trap game. In the end, however, I believe Mayfield will shine bright in the first primetime game of the year, especially with it being the home opener, leading Cleveland to an early 2-0 record, beating Cincinnati, 24-10.
Running record: 2-0
Week 3: vs. Washington Redskins (3-13 last season; 5.5 o/u for 2020)
If you were to bet on the team to not achieve the “over” on their projected win totals, the Washington Redskins should be at the top of your list. There are too many unknowns in the Nation’s Capital. Is Dwyane Haskins the quarterback of the future? How much better will Washington actually be with Ron Rivera as the new head coach? I believe the Redskins will struggle to find their footing for the first eight weeks or so, which would cause an ugly situation in D.C., so I believe the Browns take this one easily. Pencil a win for Baker and company, 35-14.
Running record: 3-0
Week 4: @ Dallas Cowboys (8-8 last season; 9.5 o/u for 2020)
Cleveland travels to Dallas in week four in a matchup between Baker Mayfield and Dak Prescott (assuming he eventually signs a contract extension). The Cowboys won the first round of the draft, taking receiver CeeDee Lamb out of the University of Oklahoma. However, I do not believe in them as a team. I do not think they’ll win more than nine games this season and will fail to make the playoffs once again. However, I think Mayfield and company will have a hard time adjusting to the bright(er) lights of Jerry’s World. I think America’s Team will come out victorious in a nail-biter, 17-14.
Running record: 3-1
Week 5: vs. Indianapolis Colts (7-9 last season; 8.5 o/u in 2020)
Philip Rivers--who may or may not be retiring following the conclusion of this season--will have a lot to prove. I think Rivers will lead the Colts out to an impressive start, and Indy will be one of the teams who surprise some teams in 2020. Coming into this game against Cleveland, Indy will play Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York [Jets], and Chicago. To me, that screams 3-1 heading into the showdown with the Browns (who, if predicted correctly, will also be 3-1). I am of the belief that Rivers will carry the momentum through this game and beat the Browns, 35-17.
Running record: 3-2
Week 6: @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 last season; 9 o/u in 2020)
Since the 2010-2011 season, Pittsburgh has had Cleveland’s number, defeating them 16 times out of 20 games played. Not to mention, the Steelers have a lot to prove in 2020, no one more than Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of last season because of an elbow injury. I think this game being in Pittsburgh matters, and I see the Steelers winning 17-10.
Running record: 3-3
Week 7: @ Cincinnati Bengals (2-14 last season; 5 o/u in 2020)
In an early-season rematch, this time in Cincinnati sees the same result. I think Mayfield and company snap their three-game losing streak, beating the Bengals twice in seven weeks, 28-17.
Running record: 4-3
Week 8: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9 last season; 7.5 o/u in 2020)
It is year three of Jon Gruden’s return to the Raiders, and they still have not found their identity. Derek Carr is not the QB of the future, and Las Vegas will not be kind to the Raiders, who might not win more than 7 games this year. I like the Browns 24-10.
Running record: 5-3
Week 9: Bye Week
Week 10: vs. Houston Texans (10-6 last season; 8 o/u in 2020)
The Texans are coached by Bill O’Brien. That is all you need to know. Browns 28-21.
Running record: 6-3
Week 11: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7 last season; 9 o/u)
The Eagles are one of the few teams that you could make the legitimate case that they can either go 11-5 or 5-11. If and when Carson Wentz can prove his health, then the Eagles should have a more clear-cut answer. The Browns will have a game or two where they don’t play to their potential, which is a natural thing that happens to every team. For that reason, I like the Eagles in this game, 18-14.
Running record: 6-4
Week 12: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10 last season; 4.5 o/u)
The Jaguars are bad. They have traded away or released almost every relevant player in their roster in hopes of having the chance to draft quarterback Trevor Lawrence at the 2021 draft. The future is bleak for the Jaguars and the 4.5 over-under for them is really generous--they are going to be really bad, and hopefully, the Browns do not succumb to this trap game. I like the Browns in this game, 35-10.
Running record: 7-4
Week 13: @ Tennessee Titans (9-7 last season; 8.5 o/u)
The Browns will be running into a buzzsaw when they face superstar running Derrick Henry. Cleveland is hoping for him to have an off day when they travel to Nashville. I am, too, I like the Browns to win this game and out-slug the Titans in the running game, 35-28.
Running record: 8-4
Week 14: vs. Baltimore Ravens (14-2 last season; 11.5 o/u)
In a rematch 13 weeks later, I expect Baltimore to get their revenge, 24-14 over the Browns, meaning both teams win at the other team’s home field.
Running record: 8-5
Week 15 and 16: @ New York Giants (4-12 last season; 6.5 o/u), @ New York Jets (7-9; 6.5 o/u)
To save space, the next two weeks will be explained here. The Giants won’t be good, nor will the Jets. The Browns at worst should split the two-week New York road trip, but I am optimistic and see them winning both. 17-7 over the Giants, 23-18 over the Jets.
Running record: 10-5
Week 17: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 last season; 9 o/u)
If the Browns can make it to week 17 with a record of 10-5, then there will be a lot on the line. A division crown is a possibility but at the worst, a wild card spot will be on the line. Baker will have his crew motivated and ready to clinch a playoff berth for the Browns, and the home crowd will back them up against their bitter rival. I like the Browns in this game, 14-10, and for the first time since 1986 Cleveland defeats Pittsburgh twice in a season.
Final record: 11-5
To review, I predict the Browns will have two win streaks of at least three games and will have one three-game losing streak to send all fans into panic mode, but in the end, will make the postseason. Maybe I am too optimistic and the Browns fall flat and go 7-9 or 8-8, but I am of the firm belief that the Browns will turn it around in 2020.