NFL Preview: Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals

This article is part of a series previewing the 2018-2019 NFL season where we will cover quick notes on all 32 NFL teams, favorite potential storylines, win-loss predictions, the playoff picture, and my picks to compete in Super Bowl LIII.

Cleveland Browns

I have been waiting to write this one for a long time.  It truly amazes me for as much of a shit show the Cleveland Browns have been since they came back in the league in 1999, everyone loves talking about them.  They have been so embarrassing as a franchise, it is entertaining.  The New York Knicks are very similar in that respect, but the Knicks are in New York City!  This is fucking Cleveland!  No one cares about Cleveland unless they are talking about LeBron James.

Okay sorry, I got distracted, time to get back to the stuff that matters, Baker Mayfield.

I wrote a few weeks back that Baker Mayfield is going to start for the Cleveland Browns if he plays well throughout the preseason, no matter what dumbass Hue Jackson says.  Jackson is on his last life as head coach of the Browns, and most likely as a head coach for any team in the future, and if Mayfield gives him the best chance of winning, he is going to play, simple as that.  So far, so good.  Mayfield has shown off why he was the top pick in the 2018 NFL draft.  His ability to maneuver within the pocket is incredible, his accuracy is carrying over from his college days at Oklahoma, and most importantly, he is a leader, and he is earning the trust of his teammates early on.  Baker Mayfield is what this struggling franchise needs.  Baker walked on at Texas Tech and started as a freshman.  He walked on to Oklahoma, sat at a year, and then won the starting job over Cody Thomas and Trevor Knight.  He dominated college football for two seasons, including winning the Heisman trophy last season.  He now is tasked with turning around the most disappointing sports franchise in the United States.  Adversity is Baker’s middle name, and I am on the front seat of the Baker wagon.

Surprisingly, I really like the roster the Browns have put together.  The wide receiver group is potentially the most talented in the NFL with the return of Josh Gordon.  Jarvis Landry led the league in catches last season, and that was with Jay Cutler and Matt Moore throwing him footballs.  Landry has been one of the stars of Hard Knocks, and I hope his teammates follow his lead, because the dude wants to win.  Antonio Callaway, if he can stay out of trouble, has a chance to be an overqualified third receiver.  TE David Njoku is a freak of nature that defenses are going to have a hard time stopping, especially with all the other playmakers on the field alongside him.  Njoku biggest obstacle is himself and needs to avoid drops at all costs.  Running backs Duke Johnson Jr, Carlos Hyde, and rookie Nick Chubb complement each other well, and should be productive with a strong offensive line in front of them, despite the retirement of future Hall of Famer LT Joe Thomas.  This offense has all the pieces to put up points, but they are going to be asked to take on a heavy burden because of the below average defense.

Very much like the New York Jets, the Browns have two future All Pro talents with DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward, but after that, the defense is still very inexperienced, and might need another year or two develop young guys into reliable starters.  Out of all the players expected to play significant minutes for the Browns defense, only two of those players have been in the league for at least five seasons; LB Mychal Kendricks (6 years) and LB Jamie Collins (5 years).  The lack of veteran presence is a major concern for me, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is going to show his frustration early and often if they do not perform.

The Browns are going in the right direction, but there are two things that need to be done before they can make a convincing run for a playoff off spot.

  1. Hue Jackson needs to go, and general manager John Dorsey needs to convince a proven coach to take over the team.
  2. The Browns have $53 million in cap room, and they need to use it to bring in veterans on the defensive side of the ball while they have Mayfield on his rookie contract.

Dorsey is the X-Factor in all of this.  He was a part of the quick turnaround in Kansas City when his team went from having the number one overall pick in the 2013 draft, to be a playoff team that following season with a 11-5 record.  I do not believe that he will be able to flip the script that quick in Cleveland, but it is a reasonable notion to think by the 2019 or 2020 season, the Cleveland Browns could have a division title under its belt.

Favorite Potential Storyline:  It would be very Cleveland Browns if Gordon and Callaway get into some trouble together, kind of like when Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount did a few years back in Pittsburgh when they were caught smoking pot.  Hue Jackson is also my bet to be the first head coach fired this season, and the media is going to freak out and question why they did not just fire him after last season…

Prediction: 4-12 (3rd in AFC North)

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins are battling for the most boring teams in the NFL for me this year.  It is a close battle, but it would not surprise me if the Bengals pull away as the season goes on.

Andy Dalton is entering year eight as the starting quarterback, and other than the 2015 season, where the Bengals went 12-4 and won the AFC North, he has been consistently average.  Nothing wrong with average, unless your roster is below average, which is very much the case in Cincinnati this season.  AJ Green continues to be the uber talented receiver that he is, but after that, there is not much to get excited about.  WR John Ross had the worst season of anyone drafted in round one last season, and it is really hard for me to get excited about RB Joe Mixon for obvious reasons.  TE Tyler Eifert is talented but is never on the field.  The offensive line is one of the worst in the league regardless of the addition of former Buffalo Bills LT Cordy Glenn and first round center Billy Price.  There is just nothing that makes me think the offense is going to do anything special.

If it was not for everyone’s favorite asshole, LB Vontaze Burfict, the defense would be even more boring than the offense.  DT Geno Atkins is a star, but defensive tackles typically do not move the needle for me.  The only other strength on defense is the cornerback group.  William Jackson III flashed potential to be a Pro Bowl cornerback in the coming years.  Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard round out that group.  The rest of the defense is filled out by average to below average middle career dudes that should hold their own but are not going to be single handily winning games for the team.

Wow, I changed my mind.  Congrats Dolphins fans, you do not have the most boring team in the league in 2018.  I expect the Bengals to be disappointing this year, and for the sake of the fans, hopefully head coach Marvin Lewis moves on to allow some new energy to enter the franchise, they desperately need it…

Favorite Potential Storyline:  Vontaze Burfict + new helmet rule = fun

Prediction: 2-14 (4th in AFC North)

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