By all accounts, the 2021 Cleveland Browns will be better than their 2020 playoff team.
Andrew Berry received kudos for signing an impressive array of free agents before nailing another strong draft.
Players returning from Covid opt-outs and the injured reserve are expected to contribute, as well.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski delivered a “Coach of the Year” performance as a rookie.
And the team won their first playoff game in ages to cap off an 11-5 regular season.
2022 NFL Super Bowl 56 Champion odds (Bovada):
Kansas City Chiefs +500
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +600
Buffalo Bills +1100
Los Angeles Rams +1200
San Francisco 49ers +1300
Baltimore Ravens +1400
Cleveland Browns +1600
Green Bay Packers +1600
Indianapolis Colts +2000
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) June 6, 2021
There is talk of a 2021 division title and a deep playoff run.
With a 17th game on the schedule, beating last year’s win total seems like a given.
So why is it that Las Vegas oddsmakers set the Browns’ projected win total at 10?
Could taking the over on the Browns’ win total be the best bet of the season?
Or are popular expectations too high for the 2021 Cleveland Browns?
Is The Defensive Makeover Just Cosmetics?
Andrew Berry went to work early turning over Joe Woods’ defense to the tune of up to 9 new starters.
His efforts earned plaudits and raised expectations of success comparable to last year’s offensive line transformation.
Cleveland’s secondary is the most obvious area of improvement, with 3 potential starting safeties and corners.
But that group includes a true rookie in Greg Newsome and effectively a second in Grant Delpit.
.@maxkellerman believes that the Cleveland Browns are "Absolutely Contenders" next season in the NFL.
Are the Browns worth a bet to win it all? 🤔
They're currently at 14/1 to win the Super Bowl.
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) April 2, 2019
But all 4 have something to prove coming off down seasons or injuries.
Another rookie, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is expected to play a major role in the middle.
On paper, the defense is the most improved defense in the NFL.
But there some questions, and if too many aren’t answered correctly, opposing offenses will find the holes.
Does Steady Win The Race On Offense?
Every offensive starter returns to the Browns, and each is expected to maintain his role.
Any NFL offense and any player values and desires such continuity.
But one player on the Browns is expected to benefit more than the others.
The only thing consistent in Baker Mayfield‘s career to date is the inconsistency in coaches and game plans.
Mayfield finally arrives in camp with a year of a system he can grow with under his belt.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) April 9, 2021
Kevin Stefanski promises a more explosive attack behind a confident Mayfield and his backfield mates.
It is difficult to imagine the Browns offense will take a step back behind the best offensive line in the NFL.
And Cleveland showed they have capable backups at every position.
So it all comes down to the quarterback keeping up with expectations.
And with a pending contract extension, legitimate playoff aspirations, and familiar faces, that seems more likely than not.
Get Used To High Expectations
Browns fans have seen a near-total transformation of Browns culture over the last two seasons.
Everyone from the Haslam family to the parking lot attendants appears to understand and buy into one plan.
Baker Mayfield- a Cleveland Browns quarterback- returns for a fourth season.
Position battles will come down to which talented player falls short instead of hoping a lesser player steps up.
Cleveland carries a 2-game winning streak against the Pittsburgh Steelers into the season.
"[Cleveland] could be the dark-horse Super Bowl team. And it's so crazy that I'm saying that about the Cleveland Browns, but it's legit!"
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) April 13, 2021
And analysts question not whether the Browns will make the playoffs, but rather how deep they can go.
Andrew Berry’s defensive makeover looks like it can propel the Browns into dynasty territory.
Cleveland can afford to miss on a new player or two and still be AFC North division contenders.
It’s a whole new world for the best fan base in the NFL.
And expectations can’t be too high for their new-look, Super Bowl-contending, Cleveland Browns.