Good morning! In what can only be described as baby prep insanity,1 yours truly has done some scanning and analyzing, some poking and maybe even some light probing into the remaining six games on the Browns schedule and come up with the idea that the 2018 Browns will win the remainder of their games. And being that this could be my last post on this here website for a few weeks, let’s get craaaaazy!2
Week 12 at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have done their Bungles thing and given away a few games here and there. In Week 11, they lost a heartbreaker to a Baltimore team with rookie Lamar Jackson making his first start/seeing his extended action. A missed field goal with four minutes left in the game that had the chance to tie it up was wide right. A last second drive couldn’t get the job done either and you get the sense that maybe former-Bengals-offensive-coordinator-former-Browns-head-coach-now-assistant-to-Marvin-Lewis-because-the-NFL-has-weird-rules had more fingerprints on this game than we first thought.
Cincinnati’s defense leaves much to be desired. They are 31st in points allowed, given up the most yardage of any team in the NFL,3 and only 13th in turnover differential. The point is that Baker Mayfield and company should be able to move the ball against them. On offense, look for C.J. Uzomah to get some run because the Browns are incapable of covering a tight end, but the rest of the offense can be countered. In what will be a close game, we could see Baker with his first game-winning drive and the Browns first road victory since 2015.
Prediction: Cleveland 27 Cincinnati 24
Week 13 at Houston Texans
These next two are the big toughies. Houston is leading the AFC South, riding a seven-game win streak, and playing in front of a home crowd that is ready to go. Alas, there are cracks in the concrete and the Browns match up well against them. After Alex Smith’s gruesome Theisman-esque injury, former Brown Colt McCoy stepped in and gave the Texans fits. Yes, some of it was a different quarterback than the aging Smith, but McCoy isn’t a spring chicken either and ran for 35 yards on five carries in a college style RPO offense. Washington had a chance to win the game, but a 63-yard field goal try was an inch too long for kicker Dustin Hopkins as it bounced off the front of the crossbar.
This week and next will be the test as to whether or not Nick Chubb can hang with the big boys, and given the evidence we have currently, there’s no reason to expect otherwise. Houston has the seventh-best run defense and is loaded up front with playmakers. Keeping Mayfield upright will be a challenge, as JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will pose a giant task for tackles Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard. However, if Cleveland is able to neutralize DeShaun Watson, forcing him into turnovers, this could be another victory.
Prediction: Browns 31 Houston 27
Week 14 Carolina Panthers at home
Cam Cam Cam. Much like the DC Universe and it’s inability to create a good movie centered around the red-and-blue-clad hero, it’s all about Superman. However, Carolina has done a better job of adding around their star, Cam Newton has some quality pieces in mainstay Greg Olsen, running back monster Christian McCaffery, former Buckeye Curtis Samuel, and DJ Moore. Will Cleveland be able to contend with all those weapons? Maybe, but again, forcing Newton into mistakes will be the name of the game. Newton has done an incredible job of controlling his interceptions and is having his best season as a passer in his career. Disrupting his process, hopefully getting him on the ground with Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah will be enough. Look at the Atlanta matchup as a good reference to this one: tons of playmakers at the skill positions, but hardly any noise from some of the biggest players in the game. Do that, and you’ll come away with a win.
On defense, Mayfield will have to look for his wideouts more, as the linebacking corps in Carolina is stacked. Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis man the middle of the field like your uncle watches the last piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, swatting your hand away at the last second before devouring it and you himself. Getting the ball to the outsides where the defense is weaker will be key. This will be a big game for Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins, not to mention Damion Ratley and Antonio Callaway. Getting depth on the defense will allow for more screens to Duke Johnson in space.
Prediction: Cleveland 21 Carolina 20
Week 15 at Denver Broncos
Primetime baby! This game was flexed into being a Saturday night party in the Mile High City, and while a win won’t fully exorcize the demons of past Broncos matchups, it would signal a great turning point in fans minds of “these ain’t ya daddy’s Brownies” in front of a national audience. Denver is another bend-but-don’t-break defense, 22nd in yards allowed but only 14th in points, who also bring a talented pair of pass rushers in Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb. At 4-6 (currently), Denver was another team that eeked out a win in Week 11 against the Chargers. Case Keenum has hardly been the answer the Denver front office thought he would be when they acquired him this offseason, so getting out an early lead seems to be imperative as the Broncos don’t have the…erm horses…to catch back up.
If I’m being truly honest, this is as close to a must-win as the Browns have on their schedule left. The implications of beating a Denver team that had playoff aspirations coming into the season in front of a national audience…you just gotta put your boot to the throat of your opponent in that sense. I think Baker will play up the national game, put on a show and secure the victory.
Prediction: Browns 33 Denver 17
Week 16 Cincinnati Bengals at home
The Bengals bring Hue Jackson home… and find out that this is where they should have left him in the first place. There will be no revenge game for the Jackson-aided Bengals as the Browns trounce the Rivercats the second time around. I have an odd amount of trust in Freddie Kitchens and Greggggg Williams, and the ability to learn from any mistakes that were made will go a long way in this game. Even if I come out wrong and the Week 12 matchup is a bust, I firmly believe this will be a win.
Prediction: Cleveland 30 Cincinnati 17
Week 17 at Baltimore Ravens
Ah yes, Week 17, or as I used to call it, “The Return to Baseball”. Most years, I would be looking at spring training rosters or trying to find some Christmas bargains in the free agent pool party. This year, if I am right and the Browns do pull off the unprecedented and win out, they could be looking at a possible playoff matchup. At 9-6-1, this matchup could be a “win and you’re in” game against the Ravens.
Supposedly led by Lamar Jackson as veteran Joe Flacco has been put out to pasture due to a bad hip, the dual-threat quarterback will give Cleveland the threat to run out of the backfield that has been the bane of their existence for years. An always stout defense, best in points and yards allowed, will be one of the hardest tasks for young Mayfield and crew to tackle, but with a win over Baltimore already in their pockets, they can use that confidence as a stepping stone. Even that win was with almost a fully different4 team: Carlos Hyde was the leading rusher, Mayfield threw for 342 yards, Hue and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were in charge. This is not that team anymore. Baker hasn’t thrown for 300 yards since and Chubb and Johnson provide a much-needed spark out of the backfield. Do it up once more before entering those playoffs, Bake!
Prediction: Cleveland 17 Baltimore 14
Are all of these things ACTUALLY going to happen? No. There’s little to no way that Cleveland actually wins out against the rest of their schedule. The Panthers game is a stretch even I shouldn’t be attempting at my age. However, it more so pounds home the fact that this statement is real and should make every Cleveland fan excited: they have a chance in every game. It has long been said that the NFL is an “Any Given Sunday” league, but that hasn’t been the case for Cleveland in almost forever. This roster and this quarterback give fans the hope and chance that every game played COULD be a win, and I’m as thankful for that as I am almost anything else.
On a serious note
This is Thanksgiving week, and as usual, I have to be sappy, it’s somehow ingrained in my DNA. I am thankful for my wife, my soon-to-be-born baby girl, and the rest of my family. They truly are the best. My friends, my “framily”, mean so much to me as I have so many “brothers” and “sisters” that I never knew before. I’m thankful for WFNY and the community I have with all of the writers/editors/podcasters here. I am thankful for Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor and the fact that they are on my favorite team. I am thankful for Baker Mayfield and his unyielding joy and confidence. I am thankful I’m not more into basketball as this year seems to be going horribly. I encourage you over this next week to look out over everything you have and think of what you’re actually thankful for. You’d probably be surprised as to what you are missing right in front of you.