browns predictions

The Cleveland Browns finished up the 2013 regular season with a record of just 4-12. It was the sixth straight season that Cleveland failed to win more than 5-games and the 10th time in the last 12 years that the Browns finished last in the AFC North.

Looking ahead to 2014, Cleveland will be in the first year of a new head coach, as Mike Pettine replaces Rob Chudzinski after just one season on the job. Pettine spent last year as the defensive coordinator in Buffalo and the previous four at the same position with the Jets. Pettine named Jim O’Neil, who served under him as the Bills’ linebackers coach, as the new defensive coordinator. Replacing Norv Turner on the offensive side of the ball will be Kyle Shanahan, who spent the last four years in Washington.

It was just another offseason for Cleveland, until they drafted Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the first round. Regardless if Manziel starts right away, he’s brought a buzz with him to Cleveland that has Browns fans as excited as they have been in nearly two decades. Here’s a look at what Cleveland will send to the field in 2014 and my thoughts on where the Browns will end up in the standings.

Last Season
AFC North
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel, OT/G Joel Bitonio, ILB Christian Kirksey, RB Terrance West, CB Pierre Desir
RB Ben Tate, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Miles Austin, WR Nate Burleson, S Donte Whitner, OL Nick McDonald
QB Brandon Weeden, QB Jason Campbell, WR Davone Bess, G Shawn Lauvao, G Oniel Cousins, ILB D’Qwell Jackson, CB Chris Owens, S T.J. Ward
2014 Preview
2014 Cleveland Browns Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 @ Steelers
9/14 Saints
9/21 Ravens
Week 4 BYE
10/5 @ Titans
10/12 Steelers
10/19 @ Jaguars
10/26 Raiders
11/2 Buccaneers
11/6 @ Bengals
11/16 Texans
11/23 @ Falcons
11/30 @ Bills
12/7 Colts
12/14 Bengals
12/21 @ Panthers
12/28 @ Ravens
Estimated Wins: 6.97

The big question that everyone is talking about is whether it will be Manziel or Brian Hoyer starting at quarterback for Cleveland in Week 1. While fans will be desperate to see Manziel on the field, I think Hoyer gives them a better chance to win in 2014. Hoyer threw for 590 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first two starts, both wins, before suffering a season ending knee injury. Hard to ignore a guy who delivered half the teams’ wins, especially when one of those games against division winner Cincinnati.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, they will likely have to make due without star wide out Josh Gordon, who is facing a potential one-year ban for testing positive for marijuana. That’s a huge loss. Gordon exploded on to the scene in 2013 to lead the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards and did so in just 14 games. The additions of Nate Burleson, Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Anthony Armstrong and Earl Bennett don’t make up for losing Gordon.

The good news for the Browns is they still have one of the elite young tight ends in the game in Jordan Cameron, who caught 80 passes for 917 yards and 9 touchdowns. They also figure to have a much-improved running game with the addition of free agent Ben Tate. In fact, I would expect the Browns to run a lot more than they did a year ago. Cleveland ranked just 28th in rushing at 86.4 ypg, largely due to they passed 67% of the time. A more balanced attack could go a long way in the Browns improving on their 19.2 ppg (27th).

The offense is getting all the attention right now, but most experts believe it’s the Browns defense that gives them a shot at climbing out of the cellar in the AFC North. For starters, Pettine is defensive minded guy and will likely make decisions based on what is best for this side of the ball. The pieces are certainly in place for Cleveland to see significant improvement. Last year, the Browns ranked 9th in total defense (332.4 ypg), but were 23rd in points allowed (25.4 ppg).

Even though the Browns lost their leading tackler in linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and talented safety T.J. Ward, they made up for them by bringing in veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby from the Cardinals and veteran safety Donte’ Whitner from the 49ers. Not to mention they got a major upgrade at corner with their first round pick of Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, who figures to thrive playing opposite of Joe Hayden.

Another area of the Browns defense that I expect to see a big jump from last year is in the sacks department. Cleveland totaled just 40 sacks (T-16th) a year ago and the team leader was Jabal Sheard with a mere 5.5. Pettine knows how to put pressure on the quarterback. He showed that last year when he helped the Bills pile on 57 sacks. More pressure on the quarterback, typically leads to more turnovers and the Browns could certainly use some help in that area after posting a -8 turnover margin in 2013.

Regular Season Win Total
to Win the AFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIX
33 to 1
90 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada

While I think the Browns will be a much more competitive team than they have in previous seasons, I think they are going to fail to live up to the huge hype that’s been created in the offseason. It’s a lot easier for a young team to thrive as the underdog and catch opponents by surprise. My guess is the rest of the NFL is sick of hearing about Cleveland and will be a little more motivated to play them, especially if Manziel ends up being the starter.

You also have to take into consideration that the Browns are learning new schemes on both sides of the ball and lost arguably their best offensive weapon in Gordon. Not to mention there’s a good chance they will get average play out of the quarterback position whether it’s Hoyer or Manziel. Hoyer isn’t a franchise quarterback and Manziel is going to make a bunch of rookie mistakes when/if he gets on the field.

Though I’m not predicting Cleveland to escape the basement of the AFC North, I do like their chances of exceeding the 5-win mark for the first time since 2007. Unfortunately the hype surrounding the Browns has their win total sitting at 6.5, instead of 5-5.5 like it should be.

The schedule is certainly favorable for the Browns to have their best season in years. Cleveland has winnable home games against the Raiders, Buccaneers and Texans, plus they got a great chance at adding to their win total with road games against the Titans, Jaguars and Bills. The problem is they play in a really strong division, which really makes it tough. The Browns would essentially have to win all of those games and pull off a couple upsets just to reach 8-8.

I have the Browns finishing up at 6-10, which would be a good step in the right direction given all the changes that are taking place. With that said,  I really think this team is being over-hyped by the media right now, which has me cautious about backing the Browns against the spread. The books know the public will be on Cleveland early and more times than not that’s a team you want to avoid.

AFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
Browns Resources
More Browns Predictions

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