2018 Record: 7-8-1, 3rd in AFC North
2018 Success: Big Play Offense
2018 Failure: Too Many Turnovers
Offensive MVP: Odell Beckham Jr.
Defensive MVP: Myles Garrett
O/U Wins: 9 (Over -125/Under +105)
Record Prediction: 8-8
The question for the Browns is simple; how are they going to handle this added pressure? Expectations are high and Cleveland fans are starving for a competitive football team. Having not won more than 7 games since 2007, this could be their best season in quite some time.
Let me start by saying, I am not as high on the Browns as many in the football world are. I understand the moves they made this offseason and the potential firepower they have on the offensive side of the ball, but I have some concerns. First off, I must admit that, on paper, their offense looks like it could be one of the best in the league. This was a unit that was in the top 10 in the league in big plays in both passing and rushing (20+ or 40+ yard plays). It’s scary to think about how many chunk plays the offense could put together with the new names on the roster.
Mayfield, OBJ, Landry, Njoku, Chubb, and Hunt give them arguably the best set of skill players in the NFL. The bye for the Browns is after their first 6 games. If they go 2-4 in that opening stretch, which I believe they will, I could easily see tensions boiling over and, with a rookie head coach, negatively affecting the Browns the rest of the way. They MUST get off to a good start if they want to win 9 or 10 games. Cutting back on turnovers (24 total, putting them in the bottom half of the league last year) would go a long way towards accomplishing that.
The defense worries me. They have a bona fide pass rusher in Myles Garrett and an elite cover corner in Denzel Ward. Ward needs to stay healthy after missing 3 games to concussion issues last season. As for Garrett, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was near the top of the league in sacks. The issue with the defense is they did not play well as a unit. Despite Garrett contributing 13.5 sacks, they were still in the bottom third of the league in getting to the QB. That contributed greatly to their ranking as 3rd worst in YPG allowed and 12th worst in total points. Despite their defensive troubles they were second in the NFL in forced turnovers. If not for that +7 turnover differential those numbers would have been much worse.
Overall, I think people are a little blinded by their star power on offense. Like I said, if they don’t get off to the start that many are expecting, the pressure will only grow. As a Giants fan, I know what OBJ becomes when things aren’t all sunshine and roses, and it most definitely will not help this young team. They’ll need a leader and I’m not sure they have one right now. I think they avoid a losing season, which is an achievement for this franchise, but it’ll be with an 8-8 record. I’m taking the under!