Uh, well, here we go again…
After a season of disappointment, letdowns, failure, and sadness, the Browns hit the reset button yet again as head coach and look to snap a SIXTEEN FUCKING YEAR STREAK of not winning their season opener.
The good news? None. The bad news? They face the Ravens, possibly one of the leagues Top 3 teams. This was the last time the Browns won a Week 1 game…
Yes, Jeff Garcia.
Popular and relevant things the last time the Browns won a Week 1 game:
- George W. Bush vs. John Kerry for the Presidency
- The Motorola Razr
- 'Mr. 3000' with Bernie Mac (RIP) was set to be released
- Green Day's "American Idiot" was set to be released
- 'Desperate Housewives' was set to debut
- William Hung was still viral
- Everyone was using AIM, possibly more than texting
The point being, it's a been a long ass time.
I actually think the Browns won't be terrible this year. Last year was smoke and mirrors, this year seems like it's more about "no bullshit" with the likes of Kevin Stefanski as head coach, Bill Callahan coaching the offensive line, and more. What does it come down to? Baker Mayfield. He has to be better, plain, and simple. But if Baker can even just be what Kirk Cousins was for Stefanski in Minnesota, then this team can succeed. They're going to ride the shoulders of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (as they should), so they can make some noise if Baker, with his rich set of receivers and tight ends, can improve his play. Unfortunately, I don't think the defense, which is a question mark outside of the front four, is good enough for this team to be better than 9-7. But that does qualify as "not terrible," so I'll take it.
Funny thing is, I don't even put much weight into this first game. I expect them to get handled fairly easily, but even if they win…
…they blew the doors off the Ravens in Baltimore last year. So what would a win even tell us this year!?
The Browns' game in Baltimore was easily their best last year and the only time it seemed as though Freddie Kitchens knew what he was doing. It was a game based heavily on the ground attack, and Baker made the throws he needed to make. They got pressure on Lamar and forced mistakes.
It was weird.
Here's the problem for the Browns today, the main one, at least. The secondary is decimated all ready to start the season. Rookie and supposed-to-be-stud safety Grant Delpit is out with a season-ending injury suffered during camp, but that's just the first domino. Kevin Johnson, free-agent signing at cornerback, had a brutal liver injury in camp, and Greedy Williams is lucky to even be week-to-week after his injury. The team is in a world of hurt with an already shaky secondary, and the same can be said about linebacker, a thin group now missing Mack Wilson (who is also lucky his injury wasn't season-ending).
Not an ideal start.
The Ravens are healthy.
Injuries play a factor in the play today for me.
Before the secondary issues, I'd have said the Browns keep the game close, but I think the Ravens win by 10 to 13 points. So, for me, the play is Ravens -7.5, and the over 47.5 I expect a ton of points today on both sides.
The offense still has a shit load of weapons, and even more than the season opener last year…
Adding Kareem Hunt for the entire season is huge, as is bolstering the tight end front with the signing of Austin Hooper from the Falcons. Both of those things play a huge factor in the type of offense that Kevin Stefanski will run in Cleveland. He will run the shit out of the ball and use his tight ends, of which he has three massive targets.
Freddie's spread-out four-to-five receivers empty-sets ruined Baker last year behind a horrendous offensive line. There was little movement, except for Baker dropping back 10 steps and running for his life.
That won't be happening anymore.
Baker is an incredibly different quarterback when on the move in a play-action situation…
Which makes sense when you have one of the league's best backs in Nick Chubb behind you. Throw in another premier back in Kareem Hunt? Well, now you have a recipe for success… if the coach uses it right. I trust Stefanski will, so now it is in Baker's hands to be more locked in this year.
It'll help that Baker will also be behind a better offensive line, one that signed Jack Conklin from the Titans on the right side of the line, and drafted a top pick in Jedrick Wills for the left side of the line.
The offense for the Browns can be summed up with this: no more excuses for Baker Mayfield.
Ah, the problem child for 2020.
The front four is great. Is it as good as it could've been had Jadeveon Clowney accepted his contract offer? No, but with Myles Garrett back, they're stout. Adrian Clayborn as a rotational piece is also sneakily a great move for the Browns from the offseason.
Now as for what is behind them… yeesh.
I like Jacob Phillips as a solid rookie linebacker in terms of depth, but the fact he has to start is a little scary. Same with B.J. Goodson, a guy viewed as a depth pick-up is now the anchor of the linebacker group. Sione Takitaki also has a ton to prove in his second season.
The secondary, when healthy is slightly above average, mostly due to Denzel Ward, but with injuries, the depth is a major problem. I liked the trade for Ronnie Harrison from the Jaguars, and the pickups of Karl Joseph (who I think has major potential he can live up to) and Andrew Sendejo are solid… but that's about it. I've always liked Terrance Mitchell, but this group is thin and could be in trouble during Week 1 against Lamar Jackson.
The Browns' biggest disadvantage is a "tough shit" scenario, and that's the fact they haven't really played any type of game together.
In Baltimore, the Ravens have a team that went 14-2, has played as well as anyone in terms of cohesiveness over the last few years, and one that doesn't really need a preseason.
A major issue the Browns faced last year was the delicate care in which they handled preseason games. They never had chemistry under Freddie and the team didn't all come together until that first week after sitting out most of the preseason.
Due to COVID, that wasn't really an option this year, but I see the problem being the same.
Here's my hype video:
Give me the Ravens. The Browns offense will be better, but the defense won't be able to do enough to stop Lamar Jackson.
PREDICTION: Ravens defeat Browns, 30-20
Let's go… GO BROWNS.