Can the Browns score enough to find success in 2015?


Nov 16, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (16) scores a touchdown between Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (34) and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns will play what many consider one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this fall.

According to, the Browns will face the ninth-hardest schedules as they take on the NFC West and AFC West, whose teams combined for a record of 138-116-2 last season. Of course, with 14 common opponents, everyone in the AFC North is in the same boat, with Pittsburgh (No. 1) and Cincinnati (No. 2) topping the rankings, and Baltimore coming in two spots behind the Browns at No. 11.

Much can change between now and when the Browns take the field this fall, of course, as teams deal with injuries, dissension and the ups-and-downs that come with the typical NFL season. At this time last season, many experts expected the Browns to struggle against New Orleans and Atlanta, but Cleveland ultimately went 3-1 against the NFC South.

Related: Browns thinking touchdowns, not field goals

Conversely, the Browns went just 1-3 against the weak AFC South, and needed the greatest road comeback in NFL history to secure that one victory, so you never know.

Even though it is a stretch to believe that the Browns could average almost 27 points a game over an entire season, is it too much to ask that they add three points a game, moving their per game average to just a shade over 21?

While on paper it may appear that the Browns are cooked before the season even begins, there is more to look at that just last year’s records of the upcoming opponents on Cleveland’s schedule. And we’re here today to make the case for why things may not be as dire as some are predicting.

For starters, the one tried and true way to ensure that you are going to win a game is to score more points than the opposition, which is where we find our first potential advantage for the Browns.

This season the Browns will face just four teams – Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Seattle – that finished in the Top 10 in scoring in 2014. Eight of the teams on the schedule were in the bottom half of the league, and five of those eight were in the bottom quarter.

Before losing Alex Mack to a season-ending injury, the Browns were averaging 26.8 points per game. Even once things fell apart, the club still managed to average 18.7 points per game on the season.

Now we can debate all day long on whether or not the offense is better this year with Josh McCown at quarterback over Brian Hoyer, and with new faces at wide receiver and tight end, but it would be hard to argue that the offense is worse, especially now that Mack is healthy and once again anchoring the offensive line.

Even though it is a stretch to believe that the Browns could average almost 27 points a game over an entire season, which would put them on par with offensive powerhouses like Green Bay, New England and Indianapolis, is it too much to think that the offense could not add an additional three points a game, moving their per game average to just a shade over 21?

Do that, and suddenly they are scoring more than the New York Jets, Tennessee, Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis, Arizona and San Francisco.

Related: Everything relies on running game in 2015

If the defense, which wants to be considered one of the best in the NFL, can also shave a couple of points off of last year’s average of 21.1 points per game, then suddenly we are on to something here.

Speaking of the defense, if they can’t get a handle on stopping the run, it may not matter what the offense is capable of accomplishing.

The Browns will face six teams that finished in the Top 10 in rushing last season – including three of the top four in Seattle, the Jets and San Francisco – and when you see that Baltimore and Cincinnati on also on the list, that makes half the games will be against teams that know how to run the ball.

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Which is a bad sign for a Cleveland defense that gave up 141.6 rushing yards per game and finished dead last in the NFL in 2014.

But that is why they call it a team game.

“We are going to put our playmakers in a lot of different spots,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said when he was hired. “We are going to try and exploit those matchups as much as we can. (We will) find out what our playmakers do well, and do those things over and over and over again.”

If DeFilippo is true to his word, and if the Browns playmakers can find their way to the end zone just a little bit more this fall, the Browns may have a few surprises in store for the rest of the NFL.

No matter what their strength of schedule says.

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