Before the 2020 season, the Cleveland Browns had not seen the playoffs since 2002. With the additions of Kevin Stefanski as Head Coach and Andrew Berry as General Manager, the Browns made moves on and off the field that have fans wondering if 2021 is the year their dedication pays off with a Super Bowl appearance.
Baker Mayfield has been a hot topic in the NFL media since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2018. With Odell Beckham Jr. out for a majority of the 2020 season, Baker relied on players like Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Rashard Higgins to pull out his best season yet with a 62% completion rate and only 8 interceptions. Fortunately for Baker, no drastic changes have been made to the starting offensive line. The communication and chemistry that led Baker to post over 2,400 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions in the last 10 games will only become stronger.
I don't know who needs to hear this but Odell Beckham did not earn a super human recovery time from an ACL tear just to go out on the field and flop in 2021. pic.twitter.com/uZfCMrq9R3
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) June 16, 2021
Even after his ACL tear, fans never questioned Odell Beckham Jr.’s abilities to take the Browns far this season despite his underperformance in 2020. In the seven games he played, OBJ completed only 23 passes for a total of 319, an average of 13.9 yards. However, OBJ’s history in New York and his impressive performances during preseason practice should ease any nerves regarding his potential in 2021.
Andrew Berry worked hard this off season to build the Browns’ defense and it shows. The defense gained Jadeveon Clowney and John Johnson III early in the postseason. The Browns then used their first and second round draft picks to snag Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. These additions show Berry’s focus on building a strong defensive line to match the powerhouse talent of the offense. If the injury-prone defense can stay healthy, the Browns will be a brick wall.
The Browns face a winnable schedule this season after finishing third in the AFC North last season. With three primetime matchups, the Browns have the opportunity to show just exactly how hard they have been working.
The Week 1 matchup against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs may be the Browns’ toughest game of the season. If the January playoff game is any indication, this season opener will be exciting but challenging for the Browns.
The next hurdle the Browns’ face is a back to back matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 and Week 14. The late season bye week may pose a threat to the outcome of the first matchup, but will be beneficial if the goal is to play the full 22-week season.
Finally, Week 8 and Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers will likely prove to be challenges for the Browns. All eyes will be on the Browns vs. Steelers matchup in Week 8 as the Steelers attempt to seek revenge on the team that ended their 2020 playoff run. However, the Steelers’ offensive line has seen little improvement from that embarrassing Wild Card game and the Browns’ defensive renovations may be too much for Big Ben to handle.
The Postseason Potential
The likelihood of postseason Browns’ football is high given the new depth on the already stacked roster and the favorable schedule. The key for this team is keeping a healthy bench. All of the pieces are there, it is up to Baker and the Browns to utilize their talents. An AFC Championship is in the near future for the Cleveland Browns.
– Hailee Murphy (@TheHaileeMurphy on Twitter)
Feature image courtesy of NBC15.com
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