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Week 1 Should Inspire Confidence For Cleveland Browns
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Cleveland Browns lost their season-opening game.
It happened again, and since the team returned to action in 1999, it’s happened every year, with the exceptions of 2004 and 2018. In most years, that Week 1 loss would not only mean a slow start for the team, but it also sapped every ounce of optimism the fanbase had that there was a chance that year was the year the Browns would finally turn it around.
This year’s Week 1 loss feels different, though. While there have been expectations in recent years, things still feel settled for Cleveland despite being 0-1 out of the gate. Last year, the Browns were throttled in Week 1, and there were plenty of questions to be had for the team and new head coach Kevin Stefanski. In 2019, the Browns were once again throttled to start their season, and that time it was a sign of bad things to come.
This year doesn’t feel like those years. The Browns’ loss to Kansas City says plenty about the team, but it mostly says good things. It says that the Browns are as close as they can possibly be to the league’s best. Sure, the way the team lost, thanks in part to a gaffe from Jamie Gillan, a fumble from Nick Chubb, and a contact-induced interception from Baker Mayfield, may leave a bad taste in the mouth, it also shows that all of those things went wrong, and the Browns still had a chance to win the game.
There’s a strong chance that Week 1 is going to be looked back at as a moment for this Browns team where things became real. The Browns played in the toughest environment in the NFL, and should have escaped with a victory. That certainly is a fact that can be a touch saddening, but should also be one that should inspire confidence.
This Browns season is set to be unlike any other that has come before it, certainly since the team returned to action in 1999.
As for this week, the Browns are heavy favorites at home, favored by 13 points over the Houston Texans.
Here are three keys to winning the home opener and getting back to .500 for the season.
Jump out in front
The Browns spent most of the game last week playing with a lead. Cleveland scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the game. That recipe is going to work for the Browns far more often than it’s not. The loss to Kansas City is the rare occurrence where things go wrong for Cleveland despite that early lead. With Chubb, Kareem Hunt, one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and Myles Garrett able to create havoc on the defensive side of the ball, the Browns are built to protect leads. Protecting a lead against Kansas City is difficult, but protecting one against Houston won’t be nearly as difficult of a task.
Pressure on Tyrod Taylor
We already mentioned Garrett, and he was able to get home for a sack once last week, but Kansas City also got the ball out incredibly quickly, thanks in part due to cohesiveness between Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. Houston doesn’t have that type of luxury with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and any of his weapons offensively. Taylor is going to be forced into holding onto the football longer than Mahomes was, and that should give the opportunity to Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Malik McDowell, and the rest of the Browns defensive line to bring him down for big plays.
One of the story lines last week was that Mahomes had never thrown an interception in his career in the month of September. That still holds true despite the fact that the Browns had a couple of chances to pick him off. Cleveland lost the turnover battle last week, but that shouldn’t be the case again this week. Houston didn’t turn the ball over either last week, but Taylor did put the ball on the ground once. This week should bring either a strip sack by Garrett or an interception by safety John Johnson III to set the Browns up with a short field early in the game.
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