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Realistic Expectations For The 2021 Browns Season
The Browns are fresh off of an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC Divisional Round. Naturally, that can raise expectations to an astronomical level, particularly after an offseason where the teams look even better on paper than they did last year.
We are not expecting a 17-0 season and a waltz to the Super Bowl, but we are also not anticipating a serious regression to the Browns of old. That being said, here are a few realistic expectations to have for the 2021 Cleveland Browns.
Mayfield Continues to Develop
A huge part of Cleveland’s rise to the playoffs last year was the play of their franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield had nine games with two or more touchdown passes while cutting his interceptions down from 21 the year prior to just eight.
While he is unlikely to rise and join the ranks of guys like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, it is very realistic to expect him to get even better. Mayfield clearly figured out some things in the second half of last season, throwing just two interceptions from Week 8 on and including Cleveland’s two playoff games.
Besides his own personal development, Mayfield is surrounded by an elite running back duo, a deep group of receivers, and plays behind one of the top offensive lines in football. His carrying over his success from last year and, more importantly, building on it is something every Browns fan should expect.
The Running Game is Elite
While Mayfield is obviously an important part of the Browns’ success, the bread and butter of their offense is the running game. And once again, the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should place Cleveland near the top of the league in rushing yards.
Even with Chubb missing four games last season, the Browns averaged 148.4 rushing yards per game, third in the NFL behind only the Ravens and Titans. Chubb still eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for rushing yards while Hunt had over 800 yards with 11 total touchdowns.
The fact that the Browns boast two legitimate number one running backs is a gift that no other team in the NFL currently has. Health withstanding, those two in rotation make Cleveland’s offense balanced and dangerous.
Winning the AFC North
The Browns hadn’t won a division title since 1989, when the original Cleveland Browns franchise won the AFC Central. But in 2021, Browns fans can and should expect their team to realistically contend for a division title.
Cleveland finished 2020 with an 11-5 record, one game behind the Steelers, who started the year with an 11-0 record. They had a winning record both at home and on the road and will, more importantly, have an easier strength of schedule than both Pittsburgh and Baltimore will in 2021.
With the core of their offense returning and key pieces like Jadaveon Clowney and Greg Newsome added to the defense, the Browns don’t appear to have a lot of weaknesses on paper. While that alone doesn’t guarantee anything, it does at least give fans hope that winning a division and making an extended postseason run is at least doable, something they haven’t been able to say for quite some time.
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