What Could Ruin the Cleveland Browns 2021 Season?

What Could Ruin the Cleveland Browns 2021 Season?

Tyler Vaysman
1 year ago
3 min read
What Could Ruin the Cleveland Browns 2021 Season?

Coming off of an 11-5 season, many are expecting the Browns to once again be a playoff team. It’s not surprising, given how some experts have pegged Cleveland as having one of the league’s top three overall rosters.

However, in the NFL, there are a number of factors that could derail your season in a hurry. Here are the things Cleveland hopes they won’t be facing in 2021.

Baker Mayfield regresses

The Browns franchise has spent the last 20 years searching for a true franchise quarterback but now appear to have one in Mayfield. The first overall pick in 2018 had his best season yet last year, setting career-highs in QBR and career-lows in interceptions. But what happens if some of his old habits return in 2021?

The big change to Mayfield was in his turnovers, where his interceptions fell from 21 two years ago to eight last year. He threw just two picks over the final 10 games of the regular season, and at one point, had 187 straight pass attempts without a single turnover.

Now I’m not saying those numbers are a fluke, but the high probability is that Mayfield will not be in the same realm of QBs as Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers again when it comes to picks, especially since he threw just one interception from Week 8 on.

During that long stretch where Mayfield took care of the football, the Browns won games by three, five, two, six, 14, and two points. With all but one of those wins decided by a single score, an extra interception or two would’ve likely changed the outcome of at least one, if not two, of those games. That alone would’ve taken Cleveland from 11 wins on the year to nine or 10, likely missing the playoffs altogether.

Of course, the Browns can live with Baker’s interceptions if he also throws for 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns. But considering he still hasn’t come close to either of those, they will likely need him to keep his interceptions down to a minimum in order to repeat last year’s success.

Defensive takeaways decline

In 2020, nine teams finished the regular season with a turnover differential of +5 or better. Among them, eight made the postseason, with the Dolphins still managing a solid 10-6 record on the year.

As you may have guessed, the Browns were one of those teams, earning 21 takeaways while having 16 giveaways. However, some context should be given first.

Week 3 against Washington, the defense recorded five turnovers, while the following week against Dallas, they recorded three. They had no turnovers of their own in either of those games, meaning that their turnover differential in the other 14 games was a sub-par -3.

With a high chance of their own turnovers increasing, it’s imperative that defensive takeaways also increase in 2021, especially considering that their 21 takeaways were actually tied with the Falcons and Cardinals for the ninth-fewest in the NFL. Even more regression in this area, however, and it will be hard for Cleveland’s overall record to improve.

Injuries

This is the number one thing that’s applicable to every team across the NFL, but it’s still as true as ever. In order for the Browns to stay in the playoff race, their key players must stay relatively healthy for the season.

Cleveland’s roster already has a few oft-injured players in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Denzel Ward. Running back, Nick Chubb also missed about a month of action last season. As far as new additions, edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney is another oft-injured player coming off of an eight-game season.

While everyone appears to be healthy now, there is a possibility things can go south. Right tackle Jack Conklin has had two major leg injuries in the last five years, Ward has yet to play a full season, and Beckham has had a litany of lower-body ailments through his career. Even first-round pick Greg Newsome II has missed at least three games per season in college, where he joins Ward and Greedy Williams, who missed all of 2020 due to an injury.

A couple of games missed here and there by some of these players likely won’t ruin the Browns season. But more significant injuries to these players as well as others can turn this season from a dream to a disaster.

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