Connect with us

Analysis

Season Predictions: After getting carried away last year, I’m picking 8-8 for Browns

I’ve been wrong before. Way wrong.

After all, I thought Brandon Weeden was the answer at quarterback.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more wrong than in this space a year ago.

Not only did I predict the Browns would go 10-6 — which, believe it or not, seemed conservative at the time — I wrote they’d win their first AFC North title and a playoff game.

Advertisement

Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing was the final line, where I predicted Freddie Kitchens to be the NFL’s Coach of the Year. In my defense, I knew Kitchens had a huge bust potential. But if the Browns were good, he was going to reap the rewards.

Obviously neither happened. The Browns went 6-10, finished third in the division and Kitchens was fired soon after the finale.

Despite the horrific flashbacks, I’m going to get back on the horse. I didn’t check, but I’m pretty sure I’m contractually obligated to offer a season prediction.

No matter how brave you think I am to resume this perilous task, I admit I’m scarred by all the losing. (I know you are, too.)

No playoff appearance since 2002. No winning season since 2007. After the painful reminder last year, it’s just hard to predict success for this franchise.

But the talent compiled by former general manager John Dorsey and successor Andrew Berry is impossible to ignore, especially on offense. And first-time coach Kevin Stefanski seems better suited to handle expectations and disappointments than Kitchens was.

Mature beyond his years, Kevin Stefanski was destined to become a head coach

But Stefanski was dealt an awful hand. Coronavirus moved the offseason entirely online, canceled the preseason and condensed training camp.

The Browns are among the teams most affected by the crazy circumstances. Quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn’t mastered the new system brought by Stefanski, rookie Jedrick Wills has just begun the transition to left tackle and the roster remains young.

Everything points to a slow start, which can be lethal in a tough division.

But I can see a path to a number of wins. Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper and Myles Garrett are difference-makers, and Beckham and Landry should be healthy after fighting through injuries last year.

The Browns will need to hang in if the start is rough. They need Wills to be at least OK early and gain confidence.

And, of course, they need Mayfield to be better. A lot better. He must be more comfortable in the pocket and more accurate.

If Mayfield plays like a top-15 quarterback, the Browns will contend for the playoffs. I think that will happen. I just can’t predict they’ll make the postseason — even with the introduction of an extra wild-card spot.

Too many questions remain. Along with too much Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Before the offseason was wiped out, I thought 9-7 or 10-6. The talent is that good.

After the tumultuous last six months and an uneven camp for the first-team offense, I’m settling at 8-8.

That’s an improvement and a solid start for Stefanski.

PETRAK’S PICKS

AFC NORTH: Ravens

AFC EAST: Bills

AFC SOUTH: Colts

AFC WEST: Chiefs

AFC WILD CARDS: Steelers, Patriots, Texans

AFC CHAMPION: Chiefs

NFC NORTH: Vikings

NFC EAST: Cowboys

NFC SOUTH: Saints

NFC WEST: Seahawks

NFC WILD CARDS: Buccaneers, Packers, 49ers

NFC CHAMPION: Seahawks

SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: Seahawks

MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF YEAR: Marlon Humphrey, Ravens

OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jonathan Taylor, Colts

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Patrick Queen, Ravens

COACH OF THE YEAR: Sean McDermott, Bills

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

Comments
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

More in Analysis