Even after the catastrophic 2019 for the Browns that included a sophomore slump from QB Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. rumors (some a little shittier than others) in 2020, and just simply being the Browns, things are staring to turn around for them. Where do they stand? Read and find out Colby Cummings’ perspective on the 2020 Cleveland Browns.
The Bad: Past
For starters, the Cleveland Browns are a punchline, and have been for awhile. They (kind of) fired a guy named Bill Belichick who ended up being pretty damn good. With only 2 winning seasons since coming back to Cleveland in 1999 and a 0-16 record under their belt, the Browns have earned the “Mistake on the Lake” moniker. Being a QB drafted by them was a death sentence. Hell, Bud Light was giving away free beer just to celebrate a win, finally. And yet, even after what feels like 50 coaches and 100 QBs, they showed signs of life in 2018.
They showed major improvements and the ability to win games in 2018. QB Baker Mayfield won Offensive Rookie of the Year. To take it to the next level in 2019, they traded for OBJ and made a then well-received move to keep interim head coach Freddie Kitchens around full-time. Then chaos ensued again, and the Browns were back to their old ways. The familiar past gave fans a headache like they just had a helmet swung at their head. However, things are currently looking up for the Browns.
The Good: Present
The 2020 Cleveland Browns are 4-1 to start the season (not a typo) and in 2020 I guess that just adds up. Baker has played better, despite so many thinking he was a fluke. Those same people fail to mention FREDDIE KITCHENS was the coach. He could make Peyton Manning look bad, and Manning made ADAM GASE look good. OBJ has been getting the ball; happy wife, happy life for the love duo of Baker and OBJ. Despite the injury to RB Nick Chubb, the Browns are pounding the rock. As a result, there’s less pressure on Baker, so we aren’t seeing him scrambling away like we’ve seen before. Dare I say, the Browns…aren’t a pushover anymore?
What The Metrics Tell Us
The 2020 Cleveland Browns currently stand in good position league-wide. The Browns offense ranks 14th in DVOA while the defense ranks 16th. The Browns have played the 23rd hardest schedule. How did the Browns earn these rankings? According to ESPN Analytics, the offensive line ranks 4th in run blocking and 2nd in pass blocking.
On the other side of the ball the defenses ranks 30th in stopping the run and 9th in pass rush. They offer a well-balanced attack, ranking 10th and 11th in offensive and defensive EPA/per play, respectively. They are currently 3-2 against the spread, slightly outperforming Vegas’ expectations of them. The 2020 Cleveland Browns began the season predicted to not make the playoffs, but currently have 76.4% chance to make it, per ESPN’s Football Power Index. As far as the numbers nerds and film junkies see it, the Browns are actually a well-rounded team with plenty of upside.
For starters, they have a measuring stick type of game vs. the Steelers on Sunday at 1:00 PM, just as long as the Titans don’t screw this up too somehow. (Side note: collectively we all officially hate the Titans. If you’re not down with that, you can’t sit with us.) Anyways, these are the two teams that are ultimately completing for 2nd in the AFC North behind the Ravens, and there’s no shame in that. Getting a wild card spot and making the playoffs would seem like a God send for Browns fans. Furthermore, the Browns have one of the easiest strengths of schedules remaining.
The Steelers are going to be a major test of the Browns, especially for the Browns’ offensive line. The Steelers rank 1st in stopping the run and 2nd in rushing the passer. Colin Cowherd is licking his chops just thinking about this stout Steelers defense giving Baker fits. As far as Sunday, it depends if Baker wakes up feeling dangerous again.
I see discipline being a major factor in this one. These teams are similar in terms of penalties committed in 2020 thus far. I’ll say this is one is close, but I’ll give the edge to the Steelers at home, 26-23. However, I like what I’ve seen from Cleveland in 2020, and even a loss to the Steelers this week wouldn’t change my optimistic outlook on them. I still like them to get in the playoffs after beating up on teams like the Bengals, Texans, Jets, Giants, Jaguars, and even the Eagles the rest of the season.
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