Cleveland Browns: Early 2017 record predictions from the DPD staff

Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor (21) celebrates after making an interception during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor (21) celebrates after making an interception during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns will enter 2017 as underdogs on a weekly basis, but some of our staff has some optimism in our way-too-early record predictions.

It is only May, but Cleveland Browns fans are already getting excited about the 2017 season. We here at Dawg Pound Daily are just as excited, so we decided to share our way-too-early record predictions for the season.

Tom Moore (3-13)

There is no denying that the Cleveland Browns improved the roster during free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft.

The problem, among others, is that the rest of the NFL was busy improving as well.

The Browns will most likely not finish 1-15 again this season as an improved offensive line and a defense that has to be better — if for no other reason than Ray Horton is no longer in town — will help the situation immensely.

There is still that nagging quarterback question, and the fact that this is a young team that is still trying to figure out how not to lose while the league’s better teams are busy figuring out how to win games.

We’ve seen a sprinkling of fans believing that the Browns are going to put up at least seven wins this fall — after all, they were so close last year — but that is more fantasy than reality for a team that routinely goes 1-7 at home and 1-5 within the AFC North division.

But back to the original point, which is that the Browns have improved and the record should, in some fashion, reflect that improvement.

So how many wins are on the horizon?

We can scratch the two games against Pittsburgh: the season opener will be exciting but the Browns are still too young to take on a veteran team like the Steelers, and the NFL is simply being cruel by making the Browns travel to Pittsburgh yet again for the season finale.

In most years, the Browns find a way to win at least one division game, so expect them to split with either the Baltimore Ravens or Cincinnati Bengals.

Outside the division, Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee of the AFC South, and Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota of the NFC North, are all simply better than the Browns.

That gets us down to four actual winnable games: Oct. 8 vs. the New York Jets, Nov. 19 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dec. 3 at the Los Angeles Chargers, and Dec. 24 at the Chicago Bears.

The Browns are better, or at least no worst, than the Jaguars, yet have managed to lose three of the past four meetings with Jacksonville. So figure that the Browns will find a way to lose this one.

Cleveland has only won three times on the West Coast since 1993 – twice against the Oakland Raiders and once against the San Francisco 49ers — so let’s stick with history and chalk up the Chargers as another loss.

So we are down to the Jets and the Bears.

The thought of a Josh McCown-led Jets team coming into FirstEnergy Stadium and beating the Browns just seems to cruel, so give the Browns a win.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, Browns fans will get a look at what “might have been” as the Browns take on Mitchell Trubisky, who should be starting by then, and the Bears. Myles Garrett will do what he does best that day and make those holdout Browns fans realize the team made the right call in passing over Mitch from Mentor, as the Browns prevail.

Damon Kecman (5-11)

The Cleveland Browns have done something this offseason that we have waiting for them to do for years, get better. Whether it was securing the offensive line in free agency with the additions of JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler or adding massive amounts of talent to the defensive line in the draft in Myles Garret, Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley, this regime seems to have figured it out. Build from the ball out.

It’s the successful way to build an NFL team from the ground up and while the Browns desperately wait on the franchise quarterback to emerge from the darkness and lead us to the promised land, it’s the best plan of action.

Unless this team finds competent, consistent quarterback play from either Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan or even DeShone Kizer, I can only see a few games on the schedule that I can chalk up as wins. At the worst I can see this team going 2-14 with a ceiling of an 8-8 season, so let’s split the difference and say 5-11. Remember, this is year two of the rebuild.

Matt Stevenson (5-11)

Five wins for a team that went 1-15 the season before is definitely courteous. However, in an aging AFC North the Browns should be able to steal a game or two from their rivals. Also, the rest of their schedule is relatively easier compared to previous seasons and Cleveland’s offense should improve drastically in 2017.

The Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers figure to be the most difficult opponents on their schedule outside of the AFC North, and those games will be difficult to win. Although, with the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears all on the schedule, Cleveland should be able to net at least a few wins.

The running game that featured Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson took a great leap in 2016 and head coach Hue Jackson plans on elevating the offense even more in the upcoming season. Despite trading for Osweiler and drafting Kizer, until the Browns solve their quarterback woes, this team will remain under .500.

Joel Cade (4-12)

The Browns made a splash in the draft with three first-round selections, a project at quarterback and a marked interest in upgrading the defensive line. The defensive line upgrade was essential for making the transition from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 base.

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The offense added a major upgrade at tight end with David Njoku. The team will be exciting to watch in the fall. That said, the record will probably reflect the fact that this is still a young team learning to play in the NFL while learning a new defense.

The 2016 record could have been a lot better with more consistency in the kicking game. They also underachieved given their youthful state. This season will find the Browns a little older and wiser for the wear. An improved special teams unit combined with an improved sophomore class will turn some of the close games into the Browns’ favor.

The Browns will come out of the gate slow as starting rookies adjust to the NFL game. However, by the time the bye week rolls around, the first-year players should be catching their stride in time to play some of the most winnable games of the year. If DeShone Kizer starts after the bye week, this could all be out the window.

My optimistic view is that the Browns will go 6-10. My pessimistic view is 2-14. The truth is probably in the middle at 4-12. Of course, all this will change once camp and preseason games are played and fans can see how the new players are being used.

Josh Dentler (7-9)

The rebuild is on and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the Cleveland Browns organization. However following a 1-15 season, expectations shouldn’t be astronomical. There are certainly some winnable games on the schedule: Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets to name a few.

How quickly Cleveland can start winning all hinges on a couple of factors. First, how fast can the Browns can develop their young talent? A strong draft is the right start but the Browns need a lot of these guys to contribute right away.

Secondly, can an above average quarterback emerge to lead the offense? Osweiler, Kessler, and Kizer will all get a chance. One of the three is going to have to step up and perform for this team to reach its ceiling. It is also important to note that the 2016 squad was in almost every game. As odd as it sounds for a one-win season, they were competitive. If this team can develop the young talent and identify a leader at quarterback, the Browns will surprise in 2017.

Jonathan Goehring (5-11)

Based on what the Cleveland Browns have accomplished this offseason, they appear to be poised to make a four-win improvement. While the quarterback position remains unstable, the defensive front has been solidified and a game changing playmaker has been added to the secondary in Jabrill Peppers.

Cleveland now has a new defensive coordinator with a much more logical scheme which fits the personnel on the roster much better. Without losing any major names to free agency this offseason as opposed to last, the Browns really can only improve.

Last season’s 1-15 record was deceiving, as the team could have easily come away with 5-6 additional wins in games which they failed to make plays down the stretch. It is safe to say that the Browns will improve this year. By how much is the question, but at this point, a five-win season looks reasonable.

Shane Carter (5-11)

In the Super Bowl era, there have been 10 teams to end the season 1-15. The other nine teams had a next-season win differential, in order, of +3, +6, +5, +8, +8, +4, +6, +10 and +6. This suggests that Cleveland has a floor of four wins next year at least, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that every season is different and we shouldn’t assume a team is great this year because they were great the year before.

My issues, as I’ve stated before, are unresolved issues at quarterback, lack of improvement at free safety, and by switching from 3-4 base defense to a 4-3, many players in the front-seven are going to need to figure out what position they play, whether some play defensive end or outside linebacker and which defensive tackles will play the one or three-technique.

The team certainly improved on defense and offense in free agency, as well as the draft, but not enough to suggest that they’ll make the playoffs, but improvement in play and overall record would be an encouraging sign for the future.

Andrew Seibt (5-11)

I want to say the Browns will be a good football team this season. I drank the Johnny Manziel Kool-Aid and embraced the punch-you-in-the-mouth style of Mike Pettine, but I’m gaining wisdom as I age.

There were a few games last year that the Browns lost that were clearly due to lack of talent on the football field and inability to close (Ravens, Dolphins, and Washington come to mind). A new offensive line and a new defensive scheme will make an impact right away, but I still have my reservations about both sides of the ball.

The wide receiver position was hardly addressed in the offseason, as it’s looking more and more likely that the Browns should have matched the one-year offer to Terrelle Pryor, but that’s neither here nor there. Corey Coleman will hopefully improve, but that as well as the entire success of the team hinges on quarterback play.

If the Browns can commit to the run a little more this year and improve on defense (can’t go anywhere but up) they should see a decent spike in their win total, providing a little more optimism going into the 2018 season.

Steven Kubitza (5-11)

My optimism surrounding the Browns never fails to let me down. I can sit down and look at the schedule and usually talk myself into the Browns going 7-9. But I’ll stay a bit more realistic this year.

Five wins isn’t anything to be excited about, but it would be more wins that the team has had in the past two years combined, so it would be a start.

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I find looking at the schedule and trying to pick out wins to be a futile endeavor, so I’ll just say five wins and hope for the best. Maybe they’ll even win six!