Cleveland Browns: Final 2017 season predictions from the DPD staff

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns open the season this Sunday so we got together as a staff to offer up our final record predictions for the season.

Joel Cade: 6-10

The Cleveland Browns are making great progress in year two of the rebuild. It may take another season to get to a highly competitive level.

But this year will see significant progress in the quality of play on the field. That progress will keep Browns in games late but may not translate into more than six victories. The Browns still lack weapons at tight end, wide receiver and Isaiah Crowell needs to stop falling over for the offense to be productive.

Defensively, the Browns need to translate preseason success into the regular season. That is easier said than done. The games will be much better quality but may not result in a team that competes for the division title.

Shane Carter: 7-9

By biggest question marks surrounding the Browns this season were right tackle, middle linebacker, wide receiver, safety and quarterback. All of them, more or less, seem to have been answered.

The Browns will surprise a lot of people this season. As I have written before, every team to finish 1-15 had at least four more wins the next season. Cleveland won’t make the playoffs but I think they won’t be last in the AFC North this season.

Josh Dentler: 7-9

It was but days after the draft when I boldly predicted a 7-9 record for the beloved Cleveland Browns. Colleagues and fans alike gawked at the possibility of such a season occurring. Maybe five wins could be put together, but no more than that.

Well folks, here we are through the preseason, and the Browns are making some noise. This Gregg Williams defense is legit, and it appears we have our quarterback. “Experts” are now calling for six or seven wins as a serious possibility. I never doubted it, in fact I’m doubling down.

Andrew Seibt: 5-11

The losses of Haden/Greco/Osweiler will not cost the Browns W’s like some NFL pundits believe. The mere fact that this season is considered another “tank” by the Browns is a lazy take in itself. This team is still a long way from contending, but there are reasons for optimism this season when so many other seasons have felt like a lead balloon.

The defense will be something to monitor as the season progresses, as well as the offense’s ability to move the football and keep the defense fresh into the fourth quarter. The Browns seem to have talent at some key positions and they will be competitive in more games than last year, but the overall inexperience of this group to close out games makes me hesitant to go any higher than five wins.

Matt Stevenson: 5-11

The Cleveland Browns enter the 2017 season with an intriguing, young group of talent and a handful of hope. An impressive 2017 draft has Browns fans excited as it finally seems a regime has a solid plan in place which the front office is following.

Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown have created a culture that has been non-existent for quite some time in Cleveland and this young team looks to build for the future. New quarterback DeShone Kizer impressed in the preseason, ultimately leading to him winning the starting job at only 21 years old.

The defense has provided a solid identity for this team and if the offense can provide consistency the Browns have a chance to turn some heads in 2017. The AFC North is never easy to win in and Cleveland must win at least one or two division games to gain respect in the conference. Despite the true improvements on the roster via drafting, the team lost several key veterans and have a few dozen players under the age of 30.

It will be interesting to see the growth of this Cleveland Browns team but expecting significant strides in the second year of the new regime seems drastic. The Cleveland Browns will show they are on the come-up but the inexperience will often show against a competitive division. 5-11 will be the record by the end of the season – and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The foundation is set for the Browns but it will indeed take time.

Jonathan Goehring: 7-9

The Browns are in rebuilding mode, but that doesn’t mean they can’t surprise and even avoid the AFC North cellar. Once again, Cleveland has one of the youngest rosters in football. But this time, they have young talent at skill positions rather than undrafted free agents or others who didn’t belong in the NFL.

Thanks to a strong draft, the Browns have a chance to improve in 2017. But what will make the most difference for the team is the scheme and coaching change defensively. The preseason games have already revealed just how more soundly the unit as a whole is tackling. It also couldn’t be any more clear that the 4-3 defense works better with this group of players and the defense they wish to implement in Cleveland.

No matter how controversial Gregg Williams’ past is, it is undeniable that the new defensive coordinator is going to get this unit in line. I see a drastic improvement in the win column, as the Browns will finish 7-9, ahead of the Ravens. This is not only due to their composed and talented young core, but also due to the fact that they should be able to pull off some close games they lost last season.

Fans should have hope that we have seen the worst and that the possible effects of the beginning of this rebuilding stage to begin this season shouldn’t be underestimated.

Roger Cohen: 5-11

As I started to write this piece, the giddiness of an undefeated, drama-free preseason and Tribe Believeland mojo had me thinking 7-9, maybe even 8-8 and a Wild Card run…then my phone beeped with the news of Myles Garrett’s ‘serious’ injury and that “same old Browns” depression washed over me. I’m back on Planet Earth (the round one, not Kyrie’s flat earth) so 5-11 sounds doable, with these bold Mark ’em Down predictions:

  • Seventh-round draftee Matthew Dayes will lead the Browns in rushing and all-purpose yards.
  • At least three Browns will make the Pro Bowl — and for the first time Joe Thomas won’t be one of them.
  • A backup QB will get at least six starts, going 3-3, and it’ll be Hogan, not Kessler.
  • Raising the question: do the Browns parlay all those 2018 NFL draft picks for USC’s Darnold? UCLA’s Rosen? Or does Kizer-Hogan become next year’s QB controversy?
  • Jabrill Peppers will pull the rare NFL cycle: returning a kickoff, punt and interception for TDs — and scoring a fourth from scrimmage.
  • Rookie PK Zane Gonzalez blows at least two games on missed chip shots FGs.
  • Despite some head-scratching play calls, Head Coach Hue Jackson earns Haslam’s “Vote of Confidence” — and another well-earned chance to change the generation-long Browns as laughingstock narrative.

Tom Moore: 5-11

Despite what you may have heard, the Cleveland Browns have actually been making the type of moves that real NFL teams make to improve.

The offensive line, as long as the starters stay healthy, will be one of the best in the league. The running game — coming off a 50-year high — will be strong, especially with running back Isaiah Crowell working for a new contract. The defense will be full of piss and vinegar under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, especially once defensive end Myles Garrett is healthy enough to get on the field.

That should all be enough to avoid a repeat of the 2016 season, when the defense allowed the most points by a Cleveland defense since 1990, forcing the offense to pass the ball far too much.

Those are all positives, but they may not be enough to result in a significant increase in the standings.

The Browns are rolling into the season with rookie DeShone Kizer as the starting quarterback. No matter where you fall on Kizer — a franchise quarterback waiting to be unleashed or a quarterback who is nowhere near ready for the NFL — you have to admit there are going to be struggles this year on offense.

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The schedule, while not daunting, also does the Browns no favor. The AFC North is always a nightmare, and Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota are all better than the Browns.

There are some winnable games, however. The New York Jets have a quarterback situation that is as bad as anything we’ve seen in Cleveland over the years, the Jacksonville Jaguars still have Blake Bortles at quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers are adjusting to a new home and the Chicago Bears do not inspire fear in any opponent.

Those games come with pitfalls, of course, as the Browns have lost three of their past four meetings with the Jaguars, have only won three times on the West Coast since 1993, and face the Bears on the road on Christmas Eve, a day where everyone would rather be at home by the fire.

But this Browns team is clearly near the end of the beginning of the latest rebuild, so let’s give them three wins against that less-than-fearsome quartet of teams, and a pair of wins within the division, for a final record of 5-11.

Steven Kubitza: 5-11

These predictions are always a trap for me. I want to say 9-7 or 10-6 and pretend it will happen, but that would be a true miracle.

The Browns are going to be better in 2017 than they were in 2016. We know that. But going from 1-15 to even 8-8 or 7-9 is a tall task for this young team.

A 5-11 record seems likely, and even though that is still a dismal season, it will show improvement for this team that is only in the second-year of a complete overhaul. The key is for this Browns team to keep their games competitive, as opposed to last year when most of the losses were painful to watch for all four quarters.

Awful teams can’t close out games, and great teams usually find a way to win no matter what. The Browns are more in the middle, and should be able to pick up some unexpected wins this season, but will still lose more often to those teams who are at that next level.

Next: Top 30 moments in Browns history

Five wins in 16 games isn’t great, but it is the next step toward being a contender.