Everybody knows predicting how an NFL team will do 10 weeks before the season starts is a futile gesture.
That’s especially true of the Cleveland Browns, who still don’t know when their new quarterback can play.
But that won’t stop a plethora of bored football writers and analysts from giving it a shot.
Especially now that we’ve had a preview of each team’s draft picks and free agents in the June OTAs.
Will one of these teams get their first Super Bowl next season? pic.twitter.com/hAnpi6bUzh
— PFF (@PFF) July 5, 2022
PFF’s Sam Monson is among those to post an early July assessment of each team’s chances.
And while he didn’t give the Browns a ringing endorsement, he thinks it could be their year.
Even with Deshaun Watson on the bench, Monson has the Browns in the middle of another AFC North scrum.
And he has the Browns, Ravens, and Bengals ranked within a few spots of each other to start.
What PFF Says About The Browns
Monson’s blurbs don’t reveal a lot about his reasons for the Browns’ top-10 ranking.
And he acknowledges the length of any Watson suspension will impact the team’s chances.
But he points to the Browns’ 2021 results as an indicator of better things to come.
Even with a badly damaged Baker Mayfield at the helm, Cleveland contended for a playoff spot until the end.
Rankings each position group in the NFL ⬇️https://t.co/IoLb7kxsqf
— PFF (@PFF) July 1, 2022
It appears to be a typo when he says a healthy Mayfield in Watson’s absence will make a difference.
But even a healthy Jacoby Brissett can be better than a wounded Mayfield or an immobile Case Keenum.
PFF previously ranked the Browns’ running game and offensive lines among the best in the NFL.
And the defense boasts a solid secondary to contend with a pass-happy league.
AFC North Battle
Monson provided tiers for his league-wide assessment, starting with 5 “true contenders.”
Cleveland fell into his second “could be their year” tier of playoff-contending teams.
Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance, the Cincinnati Bengals only earned the 8th spot in PFF’s rankings.
Their inference is that the Bengals over-performed and circumstances fell their way.
— PFF (@PFF) July 1, 2022
Among those circumstances could be the injuries that compromised the Browns and Ravens’ playoff chances.
Although Ben Roethlisberger was a shell of himself, Monson notes how different things are without him.
Nobody gets rid of the ball as quickly as Roethlisberger, including Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett.
Cleveland and Baltimore ranked 10th and 11th, ahead of the 21st-ranked Steelers in PFF’s rankings.
What It Means To The Browns
Few analysts argue that the Browns don’t have one of the best rosters in the NFL.
But they will argue how much a series of unknowns affect the team’s chances.
First and foremost is the Deshaun Watson situation, and it is not as easy as how many games he plays.
Brissett isn’t likely to take a game over and pull his team to victory like his counterpart.
Like this tweet if the Cleveland Browns are going back to the playoffs in 2022. pic.twitter.com/qeK2YqWdrS
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) March 8, 2022
But will Watson do so in the face of boos and protests he faces around the country?
There is also a new young center up front, a revamped receiving corps, and a solid, but shallow defense.
It is no wonder the Browns have the widest range of possibilities heading into the 2022 season.
PFF’s ranking is among the highest, with most pundits pushing the Browns into the mid-teens.