The Cleveland Browns sit at 1-2 after 3 games of the 2013 season. They have traded away 2012 #3 overall pick Trent Richardson and started 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer already, and may stick with him. Josh Gordon has returned, the defense has played well, especially against the run and in Week 3 the new coaching staff got creative on offense.
Yet in the NFL schedule is almost as important as your record. You can tell alot about a team by who they play and how they play against those teams. Sometimes its match-ups, sometimes its time of the year, other times a issue from the week before or after com into play. So lets take a look at the Browns opponents and pieces we can take from those teams and the match-up that could tell us more about the Browns then their 1-2 record.
Week 1: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are one of seven undefeated teams in the league. They have beaten tough teams Atlanta and Indianapolis since their opening week against the Browns. While both of those games were close, decided by 3 and 4 points, the Falcons are seen as Super Bowl caliber and the Colts just dominated the 49ers, last year’s Super Bowl NFC participant. The Browns led the Dolphins going into the half and had a chance to be competitive in that game but failed to come up big in the spots available leading to their 13 point loss. After the Dolphins start the Browns’ loss to them looks more acceptable then first experienced. That the game was competitive is another plus.
Week 2: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens welcomed the Browns to their home to raise their Super Bowl banner from the year prior after a brutal defeat to the Denver Broncos in the season’s opener. The Ravens had an emotional charge throughout the stadium and were expected to take out their frustration on the Cleveland team. Instead the Browns again led at half and made the game competitive late in the game. The Ravens went on to demolish a strong Houston Texans team in Week 3. Though they had a tough time with the Browns and got shellacked by the Broncos the Ravens have recovered nicely and look like they will be a competitive team all year. Even after the bad defeat in Denver they are already a +7 in scoring differential. While its another loss, the Browns took punches from the Ravens and returned some back. Josh Gordon’s suspension played a huge role in the loss as seen in Week 3.
Week 3: Minnesota Vikings
The lone team so far with a losing record. The Vikings were a playoff team last year with a All Pro in Adrian Peterson. They switched out Percy Harvin for Greg Jennings and added 3 first round talents to their roster. The team has talent having lost the previous week on a last second touchdown and competing in Week 1 before losing by 10. The Vikings were returning home and had the crowd advantage, less for a few boos for Christian Ponder late in the game. The Browns were able to button up Peterson to his lowest rushing total of the year. The Vikings are sitting at 0-3 with a point differential of only -15. In comparison the other 0-3 teams sit with -23, -31, -34, -61 and -64. The 1-2 Browns, Cardinals, 49ers, and Rams all have worse point differentials then the Vikings. While a win against a 0-3 team isn’t something to put on the top of the resume, it is a better win then expected.
In totality the Browns have had a tougher start then expected to start the year. The Dolphins have beat 2 other good/great teams with high expectations, the Ravens have bounced back from a tough opener to take a 2-1 record and the Vikings are more competitive and talented then their roster. One or two plays in the Baltimore game, or a few in the Dolphins game (including 2 missed INTs), could leave the Browns 2-1 or 3-0 and the narrative of the season is much different.
How do you grade/analyze the season so far? How do you view the opponents in relation to the Browns record?