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Commentary: Buckle up, and try to stay calm, the ride is just beginning for Browns

I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters. The steepness of the first hill intimidates me, and the ensuing drop makes my stomach flip in a way I don’t enjoy.

Covering the NFL can feel like sitting in the first car of Millennium Force, without the nausea … mostly.

The comparison hasn’t been applicable to the Browns often since their return in 1999. For the vast majority of those seasons they were so bad fans spent almost all their time at the bottom of Demon Drop.

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Things are different this year. The Browns are talented and have a legitimate chance to go to the playoffs and contend for the AFC North title, which they haven’t won since the division was formed in 2002.

Overreactions come with talent and realistic expectations. The drastic ups and downs are better suited for an amusement park.

We see it across the league every year. “Overreaction Monday” has become a standard segment on talk shows around the country. Each NFL game stands on its own and feels like it carries added importance.

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How else to explain people high on Baker Mayfield after two weeks and down on Josh Allen after the opener.

The severe swings in emotion and outlook are more common at the beginning of the season. The body of work is limited, so every game feels like a referendum on the season.

Browns fans are in the third week of this ride.

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When the Browns opened with a 24-3 win over the Bengals, the Super Bowl talk began.

When quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled again in Week 2 and they lost at Pittsburgh, Watson was “broken” and coach Kevin Stefanski was on his way to being fired.

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Then six days later, the Browns cruised past the Titans 27-3 on Sunday and Watson played his best game in nine starts with the Browns. Guess who’s suddenly a Super Bowl contender again.

I’m not immune to being a prisoner of the moment. Janet Jackson wasn’t entirely wrong when she asked, “What have you done for me lately?”

But Stefanski is right when he tells his players to treat each week as a separate entity. Reading too much into a win or a loss is dangerous. The goal is consistent excellence, but ebbs and flows are natural.

Great teams lose. Awful teams win.

It’s time to settle in. The Browns are going to have the chance to win a bunch of games.

If they beat the Ravens on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium, they would carry momentum into the bye at 3-1 and 2-1 in the division. If they lose to Lamar Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr., Jadeveon Clowney and Co., it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I’m not sure any absolutes can be drawn from the first three games. I do feel confident in jumping to a few conclusions.

The Cleveland defense is for real. Coordinator Jim Schwartz, end Myles Garrett, cornerback Denzel Ward and the rest of the line and secondary are too good for the defense to plummet.

That doesn’t mean the defense will continue to hold teams to seven first downs and less than 200 yards a game. It doesn’t mean Jackson — Lamar not Janet — won’t have a big day running and/or throwing. But over a long season the defense is going to succeed much more often than it fails. And it’s got the potential to be downright dominant.

On offense, I believe receiver Amari Cooper will continue to be a reliable playmaker and the pass protection will hold up most of the time. The run game will take time to find its footing after the loss of Nick Chubb but should be OK.

Watson remains an unknown.

The outstanding performance vs. the Titans — 82 percent completions, 289 yards, two touchdowns, 123.4 passer rating — proved he’s not ruined beyond repair. He made better decisions and threw the ball much more accurately. But the Titans have a suspect pass defense, and their cornerbacks couldn’t handle Cooper.

At a minimum the big day showed it’s too soon to count out Watson. At a maximum he turned the corner and will keep getting better.

The reality is most likely somewhere in the middle.

The optimism he’ll improve is warranted, but I expect more ups and downs as he continues to work through issues and regain full comfort.

The good news for the Browns is they don’t need him to be great right now. Not with the defense playing like it is. He just needs to not commit killer mistakes and make a handful of plays a game.

The NFL is hard. Life is never going to be easy for the Browns or their fans.

So buckle up, because there will be bumps along the way. It also helps to not get too high or too low.

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.


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