In what has become a nigh annual tradition, I am going to analyze Cleveland’s schedule and predict our record! Shout out to Tom Reed of Cleveland.com, who first posted the schedule (as far as I saw it).
Week 1 (at NYJ): According to Reed, Cleveland is 1-15 in the past 16 seasons for the first game of the season. Ouch. However, the Jets don’t particularly impress me (although Revis + Skrine is a nasty DB combination). Win. (1-0)
Week 2 (vs. TEN): Tennessee has beefed up its defense, true, but that offense is butt ugly. Even if the Titans pick up Marcus Mariota, who thinks he’ll be ready to face what should be an improved Browns defense by week 2? Win. (2-0)
Week 3 (vs. OAK): I know we’ve all crowned Derek Carr the next big QB, but while he had a solid rookie season, he didn’t light the league on fire (Oakland was 30th in offensive DVOA). The Raiders defense will probably still stink (26th in 2014 by defensive DVOA), and that should give Cleveland a chance to go 3-0. Win. (3-0)
Week 4 (at SD): San Diego has a killer offense, but their defense is only a little better than Oakland’s. There have been trade rumors swirling surrounding Philip Rivers, but I don’t think he goes anywhere. If we can stop the run and whoever starts at QB isn’t a steaming pile of shit, this could go either way. Loss (but a close one). (3-1)
Week 5 (at BAL): The Ravens will be the first team that, I think, will probably wipe the floor with Cleveland. Baltimore has had Cleveland’s number for a while. I think we’ll make a good showing, but the Ravens are extremely balanced and don’t have glaring weaknesses. Loss. (3-2)
Week 6 (vs. DEN): The Browns have one, and only one chance: Peyton Manning has to be human. He has to, finally, start sucking as somebody of his age should. If Manning does melt down, it’ll come at the end of the season, not near the beginning. Loss. (3-3)
Week 7 (at STL): Time to get back on the winning track, wouldn’t you say? I’m not convinced that Nick Foles is better than Sam Bradford; healthier, maybe. Philly had a lot more weapons than the Rams do. Win. (4-3)
Week 8 (vs. ARI): Arizona went 11-5 last season. If they break .500 this year, I’d be pleasantly surprised. They are, essentially, a mirror image of the Browns (good defense, bad offense), but they had better luck. Carson Palmer doesn’t scare anybody and hasn’t for years. Win. (5-3)
Week 9 (at CIN): It comes down to the run defense. If it’s better (and honestly, a cardboard cutout of Ted Washington would be an improvement), I think Cleveland looks more like the team that dominated the Bengals, not vice versa. Andy Dalton is overrated and always has been. Win. (6-3)
Week 10 (at PIT): If we beat Cincinnati (specifically shut down the run), I think we can beat Pittsburgh. The Steelers are formidable offensively, but a shadow of their former selves on defense. We’re being optimistic, aren’t we? Win. (7-3)
Week 11 (BYE): So, at this point, Cleveland is 7-3, and only two of those wins make me nervous (Pittsburgh and maybe Cincy.) If we’re 7-3, and 2-1 in the AFC North, we’re in playoff position. The key is not to shit the bed for the rest of the season. Let’s move on.
Week 12 (vs. BAL): We’re at home, coming off of a bye, when people will be rested. I genuinely think we have a chance at an upset here. Win. (8-3)
Week 13 (vs. CIN): This feels like a trap game to me. Cleveland’s won five straight (if my predictions are right), and we’ll probably get some injuries about this time. I think we lose here. Loss. (8-4)
Week 14 (vs. SF): I have no idea what to expect out of the 49ers next season. I genuinely don’t. Colin Kaepernick was still pretty darn good, but they lost Patrick Willis, the key to their defense. If that means the offense gets better but the defense gets worse… I think this game is winnable. Win. (9-4)
Week 15 (vs. SEA): Yeah, we’re losing here. This and Denver strike me as two no-doubt losses. Loss. (9-5)
Week 16 (at KC): If I can get some cash together, I’d love to go see this game. This is another trap game. KC is on the downside defensively, but upside offensively. Unlike the second Bengals game, though, I think we’ll overcome this trap. Win. (10-5)
Week 17 (vs. PIT): Dare I predict sweeping the season series against the Steelers? I think I do. It’s at home, and we might be fighting for playoff positions. Win. (11-5)
Now, obviously, I could be very, very wrong. Everything depends on Cleveland addressing their most fundamental weakness (which is not quarterback): stopping the run. If the Browns don’t improve there, I have little confidence we can beat Pittsburgh or Baltimore. A healthy Jamaal Charles also guarantees us a loss at KC. However, it is at least possible that Cleveland makes the playoffs with competent QB play and, most importantly, good DL play. We’ll have to see!