Cleveland Browns: Miami game is best opportunity to win in 2016
As the Cleveland Browns travel to Miami this week, they are likely preparing for their best remaining opportunity to get a win in 2016.
For a second consecutive week, Berea has been buzzing due to roster moves and controversy. Unfortunately for the Cleveland Browns, little of this is positive.
The team is entering Week 3 with an 0-2 record, following two losses in which the team appeared proficient in very few areas. Moving forward, the Browns will be down to their third quarterback at least for this week’s game and possibly longer. Rookie Cody Kessler is assumed to be starting, and Charlie Whitehurst, who was just recently added, will presumably serve as the backup.
Even though times are tough right now for the Browns, their Week 3 opponent, the Miami Dolphins, have nearly equally low expectations. Following two road losses in which they played tough against difficult opponents, the Dolphins host the Browns in their home opener on Sunday at 0-2 as well.
The focus of both the team and fans really ought to be on the game at hand, but just for a moment, looking beyond this week is very revealing.
In Week 4 the Browns travel to Landover to take on the Redskins, another 0-2 team which has struggled in the opening two weeks. But after this game, Cleveland’s next and final game against a currently winless team will be when they travel to Buffalo in Week 15. Besides this game, the Browns will play teams the rest of the way that already have wins and are very much postseason contenders at this point.
The schedule may be difficult, but the Browns have shown that they can play up to their competition at times. Still, the dilemma of finishing games or the team’s struggle to maintain solid play throughout an entire football game makes it seem very difficult for this team to defeat any opponent of far superior ability.
Five of the six division matchups are still to come on the schedule, including rivalries which can bring out the best in the Browns. But the reality is, Cleveland has gone 8-29 since 2010 within the AFC North division. This does not bode well for the Browns in divisional games.
The nine other games remaining could be a different story. Many point specifically to the matchups with the Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, and Dolphins as possible wins for Cleveland. Unfortunately, all three of these “winnable” games are away from FirstEnergy Stadium.
Beating Miami this week is very much a possibility, but a win over Washington or Tennessee seems less likely. Even though the Redskins are 0-2, they are the defending NFC East champions who could revitalize their season at any point. And even though the Browns defeated the Titans last season, Tennessee now appears to be a much different team as quarterback Marcus Mariota matures.
Then there is the Buffalo game. Sure, the Bills are 0-2 and they have struggled to begin 2016. But a road game in western New York in mid-December for a pass-heavy offense like the Browns? For obvious reasons, the Browns will have their hands full in this one.
This isn’t to say that the Browns can’t win any of these games. This team has proven that they are capable of scoring against any team. But if they continue to shy away from the critical moments, and injuries continue to pile up, it will be hard to realistically be confident that the Browns will win a game this year. As early as it is to consider this, many have begun to think this way already.
Thankfully, the Browns could put all of this distraction to rest immediately on Sunday. They have a legitimate opportunity to do so against a struggling Miami team. But if they don’t, the time will soon come when fans begin to ponder whether their beloved team will even win a game in 2016. Before this though, the focus remains on Cleveland’s Week 3 opponent.
The Dolphins are still searching for answers themselves, as they, much like the Browns, are in a full rebuilding process. First-year head coach Adam Gase is now at the helm, and the roster is a work in progress.
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Even though Miami players may have a bit of extra motivation on Sunday, the Dolphins are clearly the team the Browns have the best shot at beating of any opponent remaining on the 2016 schedule.
To put it pessimistically, if the Browns can’t beat Miami, who can they beat?