BEREA, Ohio — The Browns have the most talented roster they’ve had since they returned in 1999. There’s no argument to be had.
They also came within a third-and-14 of beating the Chiefs last season, albeit with Patrick Mahomes absent for much of the second half. Still, there were things in that divisional game, like Nick Chubb putting a big play screen pass on the ground and the Rashard Higgins play, indicating they had a real shot.
So let’s start by asking this? Why won’t the Browns win the AFC?
Because the Chiefs are on a mission? Because the Bills are the long-suffering fan base who will get to celebrate? Sure, those are legitimate arguments.
Because they’re the Browns? That argument doesn’t fly.
This team is poised to go where no Browns team has gone before. They should win their first-ever AFC North title and their first division title since they won the old AFC Central in 1989.
The key to all of this is Baker Mayfield’s progression, and I believe we will see him take the next step. Where it lands him in the NFL’s quarterback heirarchy doesn’t matter. It only matters that he builds on how he finished last season, playing efficently while protecting the football and, at times, playing a little point guard.
Regardless of what happens in Kansas City in Week 1, the Browns should start strong, picking up two home wins against the Bears and Texans before entering a five-game stretch featuring the Vikings, Cardinals, Chargers, Broncos and Steelers. That stretch could determine if the Browns will land in the 12-win range or if they have “best record in the AFC” potential.
The real story here is I believe the Browns will go to the Super Bowl. Will they win it? I’m not going that far. I think they’ll lose to the Rams in their home stadium.
But the sky is the limit for this roster, especially if Mayfield makes the jump he can make in Year 2 in this system with this offensive line and these weapons. The same goes for head coach Kevin Stefanski. If he continues evolving, it only raises the ceiling.
This is the year the Browns take their name off the list of teams who have never appeared in the biggest football game of the year. The best part? This should just be the start for this franchise.
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