Plenty of reason to (actually) be hopeful heading into 2018 Cleveland Browns season, NFL analyst says

Plenty of reason to (actually) be hopeful heading into 2018 Cleveland Browns season, NFL analyst says

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Bryan Knowles, of Football Outsiders, has some predictions and assessments of the Cleveland Browns that just may raise some eyebrows as fans gear up for Thursday's preseason opener.

Here's his (surprisingly optimistic) breakdown of what to expect this season:

  • The Browns were the best "worst" team we've seen since 1988 -- that is, while they were dead last in our ratings last season, they actually were significantly better than that implies.  They were much better than the 2008 0-16 Detroit Lions, for example.
  • The Browns have been extraordinarily unlucky over the last two years.  They've been 1-11 in close games, they lost way more fumbles than they recovered, etc.  Add it all together, and the Browns should have six or seven wins over the last two years, not one -- they haven't been good, certainly, but they've been better than their record would imply.  And all that bad luck evens out over time; it's unlikely they'll be that unlucky again.
  • Baker Mayfield has the fourth-highest projection for any rookie quarterback since 1997.  It may hurt that the Browns passed on the chance to draft Wentz or Watson, but we think they got the best prospect.  Add in Tyrod Taylor (who is an above-average quarterback), and the Browns have majorly upgraded over DeShone Kizer, who graded out as the worst QB in football last year.
  • 8-8 is probably good enough for a wildcard spot in the AFC. We have the Browns projected for 7.5 wins.  If they're just slightly better than we're expecting, Cleveland has a real shot at a wildcard berth this year.
  • If anything is going to drag them down, it's more likely to be coaching than talent. The coordinators made some odd decisions last year.  Gregg Williams almost never brought in extra backs to face three-receiver sets, despite the fact that the Browns had better results when they had that extra corner on the field. Todd Haley used play-action less than any other coordinator in football, despite the fact that it was the 'in' thing in 2017.  Hue Jackson's red-zone play-calling was very, very bad (historically so).  We have more faith in the players than the coaching staff, in other words -- and then, that raises the question of how much that "bad luck" is really bad luck, and how much of it is poor coaching?

The Browns face off against the New York Giants at 7 p.m. Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.

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