Cleveland Browns – First Place (11-5)
The Cleveland Browns were the darlings of 2019. Baker Mayfield was coming off of setting the NFL Rookie passing touchdown record and former GM John Dorsey made the trade of the offseason bringing Odell Beckham Jr. to Berea.
However, first-year coach Freddy Kitchens struggled on every level, Baker Mayfield suffered regression, the defense showed its’ flaws, and star receivers OBJ and Jarvis Landry suffered early injuries that limited their effectiveness.
The Browns cleaned house in the offseason firing Kitchens and parting ways with Dorsey. In comes highly-touted former Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as the new head coach. He’s joined by new general manager Andrew Berry who has had a very successful draft and free agency.
Berry shored up the Browns’ offensive line bringing in All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin from the Tennessee Titans and drafting Alabama tackle Jedrick Wills to guard Mayfield’s blindside. He also brought in Austin Hooper to give Mayfield yet another weapon downfield.
The Browns also beefed up on the defensive side of the ball signing defensive tackle Andrew Billings, EDGE Andrian Clayborn, safeties Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo, cornerback Kevin Johnson, and linebacker B.J. Goodson. They also drafted star LSU safety Grant Delpit, Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliot, and LSU linebacker Jacob Phillps.
While the Browns schedule starts off with a tough test in Baltimore, the schedule opens up to some serious possibilities including an early-season home opener on Thursday night against the Bengals and their new young quarterback, and winnable stretch of games after a perfectly placed in week nine.
While I believe that three of the seven AFC playoff teams will come from the AFC North (Ravens 10-6, Steelers 9-7), I think with the Browns having an incredible amount of talent, of one the best O-lines in the AFC, the best pure running back in the NFL, a coach who knows how to gameplan to his team’s strengths, Myles Garret, and Baker-freaking-Mayfield, the brown and orange are my favorites to emerge Kings of the North.