Year after year, the Cleveland Browns are about as predictable as most scary movies: You enter with overly-high expectations only to be disappointed in the end. You can almost guarantee that we will have a record worse than 7-9; a different starting quarterback will be under center than the one that started the season; and each game is one we could and should win, just to suffer a 4th quarter loss in a believably unbelievable Cleveland fashion.
With that being said, I think this year will be different (yeah…I know). Like every other offseason, I truly believe this season is the year we lift ourselves out of the sludge that this team has been trudging through the past 13 years. Here are my five predictions for the Cleveland Browns this season.
1.) Brandon Weeden will prove himself as the team’s franchise quarterback.
I’m not saying he will be taking snaps the next eight years, but Weeden demonstrated the skills capable of being an effective quarterback for Cleveland. He has an arm, he can execute a 2-minute drill, and he makes the right decisions. Even if it’s throwing the ball away or taking a sack instead of trying to force a play, he minimizes the team’s losses. And aside from his two-pass TD penalty followed by an interception against the Giants, Weeden had a game-winning drive against the Raiders and should have beaten the Colts on a touchdown pass that slipped through Josh Gordon’s fingers. Let’s not forget that he was overshadowed by a rookie class of quarterbacks that we haven’t seen in a decade. Weeden may get a lot of criticism from fans and little support from management, but I think he has what it takes to prove himself to Cleveland and the NFL.
2.) At least four games will be decided by a Brown’s field goal.
With the loss of Phil Dawson this season, I fear that what once was our backbone to getting a win on Sunday will become the team’s achilles heel. Dawson was easily the most consistent kicker in the league, especially from 40+ yards. Filling the shoes of Dawson will not be an easy task, and the pressure on the poor soul that takes his place will be immense. The first field goal that shoots wide of the uprights will have fans roaring for his head on a stick. And since most of our points come in threes, my guess is our new kicker will have to prove himself early. Whoever he is, he has the chance to be adored like Phil, or despised like Braylon. All I gotta say is good luck.
3.) Weeden throws for 3,800, Richardson rushes for 1,200 and Gordon catches for 1,000
Last year, Weeden almost threw for 3,400, Richardson was fifty yards shy of 1,000, and Gordon finished his rookie season with just over 800. Our wide receivers are a young bunch with lots of potential, and the edition of David Nelson at the slot alongside Jordan Cameron gives Norv Turner the ability to disguise plays and confuse the defense. This, combined with a new offensive scheme better suited for Weeden will give him a good (albeit long) shot to hit the 3,800 mark. As long as Gordon doesn’t hit the sophomore slump, he shouldn’t have a problem catching for 1,000 yards since he’ll be Weeden’s main target. And when it comes to Richardson, everyone knows he can run. A better pass game will give the Alabama bulldozer the opportunity to show us his skills in the open field, and as long as he stays healthy I think he’ll be a top-ten running back.
4.) The Browns make the playoffs.
It may be bold statement, but at least it suits the font.
Even though we are in the same division as two of last year’s playoff teams, including the Super Bowl champions, I expect a weak AFC North with Cincinnati being the most likely to top the division. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are in serious cap space trouble, and as a result the Ravens lost LBs Paul Kruger (to us thank you very much), Dannell Ellerbee and Ray Lewis, Safety Ed Reed, WR Anquan Boldin, and C Matt Birk. That’s a lot to replace.
The Steelers may be in worse shape than that. Coming off an 8-8 season with no playoff appearance, they lost WR Mike Wallace, RB Rashard Mendenhall, and CB Keenan Lewis to free agency. But hey, at least they got a 35-year-old convict in WR Plaxico Burress.
Since the Browns and the Bengals came in to this offseason as the two teams with the highest cap salaries in the league, they are both in the position to sign and draft the right players for the job.
Well there you have it, folks. Those are my predictions for the Browns in the 2013 NFL season. Mind you these are pre-draft predictions, so when all four of them end up 100% accurate come December, remember you heard it hear first.