It was fun to be relevant for a while: the road to 7-7

Inspired by Kevin’s post, I’m writing one of my own about the Browns. Buffalo and Cleveland have both enjoyed a renaissance this season (screwing up both of our draft picks; thanks, Kevin). The comparison to Buffalo is particularly apt because, in my opinion, the causes of both team’s success stem from one person: Mike Pettine.

Pettine has put together a very fine defense that excels against the pass. The Browns lead the NFL in interceptions and the secondary has been amazing. I cannot say the same for their ability to stop the run, however, as Jermaine Hill proved last week. The offense has been the very definition of mediocre. The one outstanding strength of Cleveland’s team — the o-line — took a nosedive with the injury to Alex Mack. The team hasn’t been the same since.

Apart from Billy Cundiff’s traveling circus of suck, the special teams have been good, especially Spencer Lanning, who will probably make the Pro Bowl (and deservedly so).

The good news is that this performance could be sustainable. Manziel should be an upgrade over Hoyer in the long run. Mack will be healthy next season (hopefully), which should give our running game a shot in the arm. I do hope we also see some quality players in the draft to bolster the team. A stud DT has to be a priority after seeing how awful we’ve been against the run. Depth at linebacker would also be nice, but I honestly don’t think we need much on the defensive side of the ball. We need o-line depth and some receivers.

I think Buffalo’s in a better spot, but Cleveland should be able to make gains too, even if the AFC North will be a dogfight for years to come.

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