Coming into the fantasy football season, the Cleveland Browns had two players...
Cleveland Browns 2013 Preview: Game by Game Breakdown and Predictions
As the Cleveland Browns head into their season opener against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in Cleveland, the most popular talking point in the local media has been a win-loss prediction for the 2013 season. With a new head coach in Rob Chudzinski, new offensive coordinator in Norv Turner and new defensive coordinator in Ray Horton, optimism and faith have temporarily been restored in a franchise that has managed just two winning seasons since 1999.
From 11-5 to 2-14, fans and members of the media have chimed in with nearly every prediction known to man over the course of the past few weeks. However, while everyone can certainly throw a couple numbers together, it is tougher than people think to properly come up with a realistic prediction for the 2013 Cleveland Browns.
Despite this fact, yours truly decided to give it the old college try by breaking down the schedule on a game by game basis. Some fans may be happy, while others may not—but hey, that’s the nature of this business. Feel free to share your thoughts on the 2013 season below.
Week 1 – Home vs the Miami Dolphins
In a matchup of 2012 first-round quarterback selections, Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill square off for the first time against each other in their careers. Weeden has not fared well against other quarterbacks from the 2012 class, but the Browns’ new-look offense seems to be a good fit for him in year two.
This game will likely be decided in the trenches, as the front-seven of the Cleveland Browns will likely dominate the below-average line of the Miami Dolphins. With Horton’s attacking defense setting the tone early, the Browns should be in Tannehill’s face all day making it very difficult for him to take advantage of free agent acquisition Mike Wallace’s speed.
Browns win, 27-13
Week 2 – Away vs the Baltimore Ravens
The Browns battled the Ravens on the road last year, losing 23-16 in Weeden’s fourth start as a rookie. Starting running back Trent Richardson really couldn’t get anything going, rushing for just 49 yards on the ground. Despite all of this, it was a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter that really did in the Browns.
Fast forward to 2013, and the Baltimore Ravens are the defending Super Bowl Champions. After losing the heart and soul of their defense—Ray Lewis and Ed Reed—to retirement and free agency, and losing their sack master Paul Kruger to the Browns in free agency, the Ravens have a lot of questions to answer early in the season. With a big-time battle in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, the Ravens will be well rested for the Browns—and that doesn’t bode well for Cleveland.
Ravens win, 23-20
Week 3 – Away vs the Minnesota Vikings
Year in and year out, the Cleveland Browns seemingly struggle defending the run. With a defensive line that can go six deep, the Browns hope to change that this season. Despite this fact, Adrian Peterson is the best the NFL has to offer—so it will be tough to set the tone in this one.
Even with Peterson, the Vikings have very few other options outside of Greg Jennings on offense. Christian Ponder hasn’t proven able to beat someone, so until he does, the Browns should have the edge against the 10-win team from a year ago. Look for Weeden and Richardson to put up big numbers, but it will be the return of Josh Gordon from suspension that earns the Browns a win against the Vikings in this one.
Browns win, 27-17
Week 4 – Home vs the Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have been touted as the “team to beat” in the AFC North this season—and for good reason. Quarterback Andy Dalton easily has the most weapons on offense in the conference, and their defense is full of players hungry to get over their back-to-back losses to the Texans in the playoffs. With so many weapons and a lackluster Browns secondary, the Bengals should roll to a victory in this one.
Bengals win, 30-20
Week 5 – Home vs the Buffalo Bills
In a rare primetime contest in Cleveland, the Browns host the Bills for a Thursday night matchup on a short week. After losing to the Bengals on Sunday, the Browns will come out hungry against rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel—pinning their ears back against the dual-threat quarterback. After losing to the Bills 24-14 last season, the Weeden and the Browns get redemption.
Browns win, 28-10
Week 6 – Home vs the Detroit Lions
After beating the Bills on a short week, the Browns enjoy extra time off before welcoming Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to the shores of Lake Erie. Many will point to the preseason as a reason the Browns can win, and while Johnson was not playing, the Browns will make it 2-0 against the Lions in 2013. Richardson will have a career day rushing against the Lions, finally silencing critics for the Browns taking him early in 2012.
Browns win, 21-17
Week 7 – Away vs the Green Bay Packers
The Browns’ daunting road schedule continues with a trip to Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. With a suspect secondary, Rodgers and the playoff-contending Pack should have no trouble with the Browns. There are just too many receivers, and Joe Haden cannot cover them all.
Packers win, 34-24
Week 8 – Away vs the Kansas City Chiefs
Last season, the Browns handled the Chiefs 30-7 in Cleveland. With a new head coach in Andy Reid, and new quarterback in Alex Smith, many people think the two-win Chiefs are suddenly ready to be playoff contenders. In the terms of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend”. The Browns continue their dominance of the Chiefs with an encore performance at Arrowhead, as Weeden—yes you read that right—picks apart the Chiefs’ defense for 350 yards.
Browns win, 38-24
Week 9 – Home vs the Baltimore Ravens
After losing a close one in Baltimore early in the season, the Browns return home from their two-game road trip looking to set the tone heading into a Week 10 bye. Sitting at 5-3, many people are shocked the Browns came away with wins over the Vikings, Chiefs and Lions at this point in the season. However, Browns fans come back to earth as the Ravens continue to own the Browns in Cleveland.
Ravens win, 31-21
Week 10 – Bye Week: 5-4 Record
Week 11 – Away vs Cincinnati Bengals
With a chance to pull to two games over .500, the Browns hit the road for some revenge against the Bengals. However, they will not find any here—as Dalton’s weapons continue to pick apart the Browns’ lackluster secondary.
Bengals win, 28-17
Week 12 – Home vs the Pittsburgh Steelers
Many fans would be excited to be sitting at .500 heading into Week 12 with two straight home games, and they should be—especially against the Steelers and Jaguars in consecutive weeks. The Steelers have major offensive line issues, yet continue to forget to address them. For the first time in a while, the Browns actually may be favored heading into this game.
Browns win, 31-17
Week 13 – Home vs the Jacksonville Jaguars
If you can think of the last time the Cleveland Browns were favored in two consecutive games in a season, please leave me a note in the comments section below. Possibly last year against Oakland and Kansas City? The Jaguars are trying to get better, but that won’t happen until they get a new quarterback. The Browns should have no problem moving to seven wins on the season in this one.
Browns win, 34-14
Week 14 – Away vs the New England Patriots
If someone can find a more difficult road schedule in the NFL, please let me know. The Browns have already face Baltimore, Minnesota, Green Bay, Kansas City and Cincinnati away on the season, and now head to New England to face Tom Brady and the Pats. Getting win number eight won’t happen this week, as Brady torches the Browns’ secondary.
Patriots win, 37-21
Week 15 – Home vs the Chicago Bears
The Browns are sitting at 7-6 heading into this crucial matchup if they hope to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Bears are a fringe playoff team in their own right, with the health of Matt Forte being the biggest determinant in this game. Jay Cutler will cost the Bears a win late, throwing an interception to Haden.
Browns win, 21-17
Week 16 – Away vs the New York Jets
The Jets are currently in the midst of a major rebuild, with rookie quarterback Geno Smith taking over in New York for good midway through the season. The Browns come in and give the rookie a taste of what an aggressive defense is like, forcing him to throw three interceptions in the contest.
Browns win, 28-7
Week 17 – Away vs the Pittsburgh Steelers
Sitting at 9-6, Browns fans should know their playoffs hopes are going to come down to a Week 17 matchup in Pittsburgh against Big Ben. After defeating the Steelers at home a few weeks earlier, the Browns will have a much tougher matchup this time around. With the playoffs likely on the line, Big Ben comes up clutch as usual with a final drive victory—sending the Browns to a narrow playoff miss in the process.
Steelers win, 24-21
The Browns improve drastically with a 9-7 finish on the season with this prediction—good for third place in the AFC North. Obviously there are a couple of swing games—the Vikings, Lions, Chiefs and Bears—which could make the season go from 9-7 to 5-11 very easily. However, with a new system and better coaching staff, these are games this writer feels the Browns will win this season.
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