Let’s take a quick look at each of the games the Cleveland Browns will play in the 2010 season.
1. They open on the road at Tampa Bay. Well, if you are going to open on the road, the best way is to do it with one of the worst team in the league. Tampa was 3-13 in 2009, and the Browns should win this one. If the Browns lose, this will be a very long season.
2. The best way to open at home if you are a struggling team like the Browns, is to open with one of the worst teams in the league. (Does that sound familiar?) The Kansas City Chiefs are the first opponent at home in 2010 and last year they were 4-12. They won’t be much better this year. The Browns will start the year with two wins.
3. Week number three begins to get more difficult. Playing at Baltimore against the Ravens is never easy for Cleveland, and the Baltimore will not be a great team. The Ravens will challenge the Bengals for the Division this year and this will be a tough game for the Browns. It is the Browns first real test of the year. At the end of week three, the Browns will be 2-1.
4. Okay, I can’t stand the Cincinnati Bengals, and that may bias my predictions. This game is in Cleveland; the Dawg Pound will be roaring and the Browns will be ready. Last year, the Browns lost twice to the Bengals by a total of 12 points. This year, after having a season of Mangini’s program under their belt, the quarterback controversy over and a settled leader of the overall program in Mike Holmgren, the Browns will defeat the Bengals in this home game. The Browns will be 3-1.
5. The Atlanta Falcons head to Cleveland. The Falcons closed the 2009 season winning three in a row and four of the last six, according to www.atlantafalcons.com Their 9-7 record was not as good as it looks; their wins were over mostly weak teams. The Browns could end week five at 4-1.
6. It starts to get a lot harder in Week Six; the Browns go to Pittsburgh. At the time of this writing, the NFL has just spanked Big Ben with a six game suspension (www.nfl.com). At the NFL site there is also a story about the Steelers trying to trade Rothelisberger. This is a distraction today, and it may still be when this game is played. Big Ben can get the suspension shortened to four games for good behavior, but either way this distraction will still be felt. Let’s be optimistic and say the Browns split the season series by taking the first game because of Rothelisberger’s condition. After this game, the Browns will be 5-1.
7. The scheduling gods were particularly cruel to the Browns by following the game at Pittsburgh with a game at the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. The Saints are complete in every way, and the Browns have almost no chance of winning. The Browns will move to 5-2 as they head into a well deserved bye-week.
8. Even with an extra week to get ready, I don’t see how the Browns can defeat the New England Patriots. The Patriots are aging, but they still have Tom Brady and will make the playoffs. Last year, they were 10-6 and they will be better than that in 2010. Even playing at home, Cleveland will end the week at 5-3.
9. Game nine is against the New York Jets. They were a surprising team last year and won’t sneak up on anybody this season. Last year’s rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, will be even better with a full season under his belt. I don’t think this team will be Super Bowl contenders like 2009, but they will beat our Browns. There is simply too much talent. This may not be pretty to watch. The Browns will be 5-4.
10. The Jacksonville Jaguars were just below .500 last year. I don’t care about this team or this game, but I do know that I am not a fan of North Florida, so I think the Browns will beat them. Yes, I am reaching on this one, but that is how I feel. Look for the Clevelanders to be 6-4 when they leave Jacksonville.
11. Game 11 is against a better team, the Carolina Panthers. They were an even .500 in 2009. They had a very strong draft with the selection of Jimmy Clausen and others. He should be sitting behind starter Matt Moore, and Moore should be very motivated by having the first round pick waiting in the wings. The Browns will host them, but I sense a home loss. Our men will finish the day at 6-5.
12. The Miami Dolphins, like Jacksonville, finished last season just below even. This year they will be lucky to duplicate that. A check of www.miamidolphins.com shows a good draft, very defensive oriented. (They also traded the first round pick of a couple years ago, Ted Ginn,Jr.) So, they are making some headway, but I don’t think it will be productive this year. Nevertheless, they will be good enough to win this Miami home game. The Browns will go down on this day.
13. Game 13 is at the home of the Buffalo Bills. Mid-December games in Buffalo can be both cold and very snow covered. This makes them hard to predict, but very fun to watch from a television. I am looking forward to this game. The Bills were 6-10 last season and have the personnel to improve. The Browns will take this game as a win and when it concludes the Browns record will be 7-6.
14. The Browns finish the season with three games against division opponents. Game 14 is at Cincinnati. I still can’t stand the Bengals, but I am not crazy enough to predict a Browns victory in the Queen City. Besides, my brother-in-law might be at this game. If you are Bobby, and you are sitting in a snowy Cincy, I hope your team wins. The Browns will be 7-7.
15.-16. Games 15 and 16 see the Browns playing host to the Ravens and the Steelers, respectively. I spoke my peace about each of these teams previously and my thoughts on them have not changed. The Browns will probably lose both and maybe Colt McCoy will get to play. The Browns will end the season with a record of 7-9 and miss the playoffs. But, they will make it in 2011: Not bad for Holmgren’s first full year.
The Browns will make the playoffs in 2011. You heard it here first.