The Cleveland Browns have been in the basement of the AFC North for a long time, but will they still be the worst team in the division in 2018?
For many years, the Cleveland Browns entered seasons obviously being the worst team in the AFC North division. But after improving their roster across the board, the Browns have talent that is similar to the other teams in the division.
The Browns have a rebuilt offense that has the potential to be a top-ten offense in the NFL. With Tyrod Taylor under center, the Browns will have a quarterback that has shown he can win games in the NFL – something the Browns have rarely had on their roster since 1999.
Taylor will also have some of the best receivers in the NFL to throw to in Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry. While with Buffalo, Taylor did not have the most talented receivers to throw to, but was still able to lead the Bills to the playoffs last season.
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On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland has one of the best young front sevens in the entire NFL. Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah have the potential to be one of the most lethal pass rushing combos in the NFL.
Add in a deep group of linebackers and a revamped secondary, the Browns defense can be much improved in Gregg Williams‘ second season as defensive coordinator.
But even with a roster that is much improved from last year, there are a lot of questions about how well this year Browns roster can play together.
On the offensive side of the ball with a bunch of new starters, including quarterback, how well can the offense mesh? Add in having a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley trying to implement a new offense, the offense may not have as much immediate success as Browns fans are hoping for.
On the defensive side of the ball, there remains concerns about the secondary. The Browns coaching staff are hoping Denzel Ward has an immediate impact for the defense as a play-maker. But there will always be uncertainty about how well a rookie can play immediately.
The coaching staff will also be counting on T.J. Carrie to have a bigger role than he had with the Oakland Raiders and E.J. Gaines who is coming off his best season of career, which he is trying to prove was not a fluke season.
So even though the Browns appear to have a much improved roster from last season, it does not mean that it will equal wins for the team this season. But the Browns will not have the same ineptitude as they had the past two seasons.
Although there are plenty of questions surrounding the Browns in 2018, the other three teams in the division also have questions surrounding their team that will hurt the win total.
The Steelers will continue to ride their offense to another AFC North crown. The biggest question is how well Ben Roethlisberger can play. For the past few years, the quarterback has flirted with retirement. Last season he showed that his body is starting to break down on him, so who knows what another season will do to his health. Their defense has some concerns with the lack of star power, but not enough for it to hurt their win total.
The Ravens continue to have a revolving door of wide receivers. They signed three free agent wide receivers, and added two more receivers in the draft. They also drafted Hayden Hurst in the first round of the draft, giving Joe Flacco a bunch of new weapons. But in a make-or-break season for Flacco, he will have to build chemistry with a new batch of receivers to try and carry the offense.
The Bengals are the team that the Browns have the best bet of jumping in the division standings. Although they addressed their offensive line issues, there remains issues across their entire roster. The team has been on the verge of a rebuild the past few years, and 2018 could be the nail in the coffin.
Marvin Lewis was also close to being replaced during the off-season. With uncertainty in the coaching staff and the lack of trust in Andy Dalton, the Bengals could see a decent drop in their win total from last season.
Even if the Browns do not go above expectations and win only five or six games, there is a good chance that they get out of the cellar of the AFC North. The AFC North is no longer the toughest division in the NFL. With the Browns having one of the most talented rosters they have had since the team returned in 1999, they have a chance to no longer be the laughing stock of the division.