The Cleveland Browns are officially in the offseason so that means looking backward and forward.
2020 was fantastic and exceeded all expectations.
"We continue to grow… the hungry, never satisfied type of attitude, the mentality we need is in the building."@God_Son80 on the Browns mentality headed into the 2021 season! pic.twitter.com/bPewZPLa6t
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) February 2, 2021
Looking ahead to 2021, it seems even media folks are starting to jump on the Browns bandwagon.
Now they aren’t proclaiming the Browns next year’s AFC Super Bowl representative, but they are nudging them closer to this elusive goal than ever before.
Here is the latest speculation/predictions courtesy of six (unnamed) ESPN analysts.
The ESPN crew analyzed each NFL team and put them in one of the following categories.
- Current contenders
- On cusp
- One year out
- Two years out
- Three years out
- Four or five years out
Obviously, it didn’t take much analytics to reveal two of the current contenders.
They are the Super Bowl teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and for good measure, the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills are put in this category also.
Even though the Browns made it to the divisional playoff and lost to the eventual AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs, they are not in the “on cusp” category.
The Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, and the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams are considered on the cusp.
Still A Year Away
The Browns are in this category.
Also in this category are the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Arizona Cardinals.
The Pittsburgh Steelers:
Haven't won a playoff game in 1478 days.
Get to watch Le'Veon Bell & Antonio Brown in the Super Bowl.
Got beat in back to back weeks by the Browns to end their season.
Have Ben "4 Picks" Roethlisberger returning next year.
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) January 26, 2021
The prescribed strategy for the Browns is to improve the defense.
Basically, Myles Garrett needs help.
Whereas the X factor is, you guessed it, Baker Mayfield.
The question mark is whether he will build off an outstanding third season or if he will regress.
Other Tidbits From The ESPN Analysis
- The Browns’ other AFC North competitor, the Cincinnati Bengals, are considered four or five years out.
- Jared Goff’s new team, the Detroit Lions, is also four or five years out.
- Rounding out that category are the Houston Texans (no wonder Watson wants out) and the Philadelphia Eagles who were Super Bowl Champions just three years ago.
Why Are The Ravens The Only AFC North Team Considered “On The Cusp”?
ESPN states that Lamar Jackson is the lynchpin of that team.
The strategy for improving the Ravens is to give him some offensive help, by way of linemen to protect him and high caliber targets he can throw to.
Cleveland Browns 2021 Rollover Cap:
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 Rollover Cap:
Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Rollover Cap:
Baltimore Ravens 2021 Rollover Cap:
— 𝘿𝙤𝙢 🧸 (@BakersBetter) January 29, 2021
Jackson is also the X factor for them.
Despite the fact he led the Ravens to a playoff win this year, his track record in the playoffs is still not great; he is 1-3.
This is what makes the NFL and the offseason fun.
Everyone can have an opinion, back it with a couple of facts, and no one knows who will be correct.
Free agent signings impact these ratings, as does the NFL draft.
Preseason and regular season injuries definitely impact it.
There is also a little bit of luck that the contenders have during their march to the Super Bowl.
It would be even more fun to look at this analysis a year from now and see how correct it turned out to be.