ESPN expects winning season but no playoffs for Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The worldwide leader in sports has the Cleveland Browns improving to 9-7 in their first season under Kevin Stefanski but is that realistic?

The good folks at ESPN have the Cleveland Browns achieving their first winning season since 2007, and tied for their second-best win total since 1999. Their other 9-7 record came in the 2002 season, where the Browns made the playoffs. This time, however, the Browns aren’t predicted to make the playoffs.

Still, is 9-7 realistic for the Browns to achieve? In short, yes. The team last year wasn’t bad, though it had holes it needed to fill, and the team did that. The team did more than just fill holes from last year, however, also tearing down the entire defense save for several players. A lot of the success the team will strive to obtain next year will largely fall on the backs of a new, inexperienced defense.

This is what ESPN had to say about the Browns in 2020.

"Cleveland BrownsFull schedule | Predicted record: 9-7The Browns now know the path to ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought, which has reached 18 years. And they’ll have an opportunity for a Week 1 statement at defending AFC North champion Baltimore."

The individual write-up by Jake Trotter focuses more on the money makers like Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. Yet, the defense has possibly seven new starters on this squad and some of the better players have been replaced by guys with no track record. The onus on this season is going to be about how the defense gels and plays.

There really shouldn’t be any doubt about Mayfield as a quarterback. The bluster and hoopla a lot of analysts are trying to generate, telling people “he had a BAD year in 2020” are coming from people looking to sell ads. He had a disappointing season in 2019, sure, but bad? Come on.

Mayfield had the second or third best year any Browns quarterback has had since 1999. This franchise, more than anything, knows what “bad” quarterback play looks like. It wasn’t Mayfield in 2019. Sure, you want his interceptions down, but when you keep in mind Beckham was abysmal, there was no true catch passing running back until Kareem Hunt got activated, the fact the team rid themselves of three prominent receivers since the start of 2018 and the fact that the slot receiver and the starting tight end were such messes that they were benched and you can see that Mayfield had a hectic as heck 2019.

None of that factors in that his offensive line was also downright garbage, forcing Mayfield to throw step steps into three and five-step drops. The offense was much improved. The offense will be fine.

But what about that defense? Now that’s the $90 million question.

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