Pretty much the butt of every NFL joke over the course of the last two decades has included the Cleveland Browns.
From Ty Detmer to Tim Couch to Doug Pedersen, all the way to Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and now, Brock Osweiler, this franchise has done nothing but rotate through ill-fated quarterbacks. Most were never groomed to be legitimate starters in this league. It’s no wonder why this franchise has managed just four wins in its last two seasons and hasn’t had a winning year since 2007.
It’s always a tough sell to bank on the Browns in our NFL Pick ‘Em Contests, but this team shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as the 1-15 record it posted last season –- not that that’s saying a heck of a lot.
Why the Browns Will Overachieve in 2017
“Overachieve” is relative, right? Winning games? It’s not all that important this year. The Browns know they’re years away from really competing at a high level, and that’s alright. Incremental gains are all that could be asked for in 2017.
Offensively, the team goes from being a train wreck to being serviceable, even topping the 30-point mark in a couple of games. Osweiler starts in Week 1 and makes it through all 16 games, putting up the best numbers by a Cleveland quarterback since Derek Anderson in 2008. The trade with Houston turns out to be a heist, especially after Deshaun Watson struggles with the Texans in his rookie campaign. No one really believes that Osweiler is the long-term answer at quarterback, but at least he stabilizes the position for a year. Corey Coleman evolves into a legitimate No. 1 threat as a wideout after a 1,300-yard season.
Wins? There still won’t be many of them. But avoiding these 20-point blowouts most weeks is an accomplishment in and of itself. A 5-11 season is considered a huge success.
Why the Browns Will Underachieve in 2017
Success becomes defined by the results of the Texans’ season. Cleveland owns Houston’s first and second-round draft picks in 2018, and the fans at the Dawg Pound quickly become more interested in the Texans losing than the Browns winning.
Immediately, it becomes clear that Osweiler isn’t going to cut it as a starting quarterback in Cleveland. He only lasts a couple weeks before the ball gets turned over to Cody Kessler once again. Kessler is serviceable, but he gets knocked out in the middle of the season, giving way to rookie DeShone Kizer. Implosion ensues.
Another Cleveland draft pick at quarterback, another bust. Kizer struggles to move the ball in virtually every game he plays and finishes with just two touchdowns against 12 interceptions. The season is ultimately deemed a complete and utter disaster.
The Browns double their win total from a year ago, but at 2-14, they’ll still be picking No. 1 in the NFL Draft.
2017 Cleveland Browns Schedule
Week 1: vs. Steelers
Week 2: at Ravens
Week 3: at Colts
Week 4: vs. Bengals
Week 5: vs. Jets
Week 6: at Texans
Week 7: vs. Titans
Week 8: vs. Vikings
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: at Lions
Week 11: vs. Jaguars
Week 12: at Bengals
Week 13: at Chargers
Week 14: vs. Packers
Week 15: vs. Ravens
Week 16: at Bears
Week 17: at Steelers
Browns Pick ‘Em Contest Best Bet: Week 5 vs. Jets
You have to go back to December 13, 2015, to find the last time the Browns were favored in a game. They won’t be favored in any of their first four games, but the streak could be broken in Week 5 against the Jets. New York is a train wreck for sure, and much like Cleveland, it doesn’t have a quarterback either. We’re not willing to put our life savings on the Browns in any game, but this feels like one they’re probably going to win more often than not.
Browns Pick ‘Em Contest Top Fade: Week 2 at Ravens
The Browns are 2-23 in their last 25 division road games. Sure, one of those wins was at Baltimore back in 2015, but the odds are still on our side here. The Ravens are going to have a little extra motivation in this one. It’s their first home game of the year, and they’re either going to be playing with the motivation of having started the season with a huge road win in Cincinnati or the desperation of trying to avoid an 0-2 start. But really, is there such a thing as a bad game to pick against the Browns? You may as well be shooting fish in a barrel.