Cleveland Browns: 5 essential non-division games

The Cleveland Browns look great on paper but they need to prove it on the field. Five non-divisional games will be crucial to confirm that the hype is for real.

The Cleveland Browns look to prove that all of the preseason hype is real. The Browns are facing the 10th easiest schedule this upcoming season after surprising everyone and finishing 7-8-1 last season.

The emergence of a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield and the team was thought of as having the best offseason has launched the storied franchise into the NFL hype machine.

Cleveland was 3-2-1 last season vs. the AFC North teams and each team has question marks as we head into the 2019 season. All NFL fans know that division games are extremely important, and this division seems to be there for the taking like never before.

The NFL saw fit to include the Cleveland Browns in four prime-time matchups which will showcase one of the most compelling NFL storylines as we gear up for the 2019 season.

Every game in an NFL season is critical. The Browns also have significant matchups in their non-division games that will confirm if the Cleveland Browns can prove that all of the fanfare is real.

Let’s dive into the games that should exhibit if the Browns can win their division for the first time since 1989.

Week 1:  Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns

The enthusiasm about the Cleveland Browns is sky high, maybe too high? Is it so high that they could be overrated? Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but they have yet to play an NFL game together.

The Browns will have a formidable test in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, who finished with a 9-7 record for the third consecutive year last season.

Cleveland has not won a season opener since 2004, but is coming off a 7-8-1 season and will enter this season with first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens.

The Titans finished 3-5 on the road last season and are hoping that fifth-year quarterback Marcus Mariota can stay healthy. Tennessee has a revamped offensive line and veteran tight end Delanie Walker returns after missing most of 2018. They added another offensive weapon in wide receiver Adam Humphries.

The Titans will look to keep away from the Browns offensive firepower and attack a Browns run defense with running back Derrick Henry that finished 28th against the run while giving up 135.2 rushing yards per game.

Henry came on at the end of last season and finished with over 1,000 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Browns will need to stop listening to all of the hype and show it on the football field. There is not a better time than Week 1.

Week 2:  Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets

The Browns can follow up a win in Week 1 with a road game against the New York Jets. The Jets had a maddening offseason capped off by Adam Gase taking over all of the personnel moves. Wait, what? Yes, Adam Gase of Miami Dolphins lore.

The Browns were successful against the Jets in the Week 3 win last season, their first win in 20 games. A win that is otherwise known as the Baker Mayfield coming out party.

The chaos in the Jets is almost as loud as the hype in Cleveland. The Jets did make some noise this offseason in obtaining running back LeVeon Bell. The maturation of quarterback Sam Darnold will be the key for any Jets success this season or in the future.

Cleveland can not afford a letdown against a Jets team that they should blow out.

Week 8:  Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots

The statement game.

The Patriots were the only undefeated team at home in the NFL last season. If the Browns can travel to Gillette Stadium and come away with a win that will provide validation for the team moving forward.

Cleveland will be coming off their bye week and will install some wrinkles to try to upset the defending Super Bowl Champions.

However, I don’t see Freddie Kitchens outcoaching Bill Belichick. The Browns put up a valiant effort but should lose to the Patriots.

Week 9:  Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos

After taking the loss against the New England Patriots the previous week, the Browns attempt to get back to the win column as they travel to Mile High Stadium to take on the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are seeking to improve on a 6-10 record last season. They will have a new quarterback, although the question is will it be a familiar face in Joe Flacco or will rookie QB Drew Lock be starting in Week 9?

Regardless of who is at quarterback, the Browns will need to rebound from the loss in New England and get a win on the road to confirm their mental toughness.

Week 15:  Cleveland Browns @ Arizona Cardinals

I know you are probably thinking, Arizona Cardinals really? Are you including them just so you can see the No.1 pick, Kyler Murray?

No, that is not the reason. This game is a potential trap for the Cleveland Browns. The game is sandwiched within a string of divisional matchups. The Browns first travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13 and welcome the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

The Steelers matchup should have division title ramifications, while the Bengals tilt could be a possible letdown after the significant game against the rival Steelers. The emotional and psychological factors cannot be ignored when discussing a team that has yet to play together.

The game prep of the Arizona Cardinals game might include a revenge factor for Baker Mayfield against his former college coach Kliff Kingsbury. Additionally, Mayfield will face off against former Oklahoma Sooner teammate Kyler Murray. The emotions will be riding high in this contest.

The Cardinals are just starting in the process of building a winner there and currently, are not a good team. However, they could be overlooked by the Browns.

In the following week’s matchup, Cleveland welcome division rival Baltimore Ravens who they project to be fighting with for the division title. It doesn’t help that their final showdown with Cincinnati is in the final week of the season. Will the Browns look past the Cardinals enough to be overtaken by them?  It happens all the time in sports.

The Browns will need to be focused in Arizona and take the traditional game-by-game approach. The Ravens game could well be for this division’s crown.

Final Thoughts

Every game and win is crucial. Regardless of the predictions, the games still need to be played and the Browns need to prove it on the field. In order to be a playoff team, they need to win the games that they are supposed to win. The Browns should win four of these five non-division games on the way to the NFL playoffs in 2019.

 

Dennis Sosic is a writer for PFN covering the Cleveland Browns. He is also a co-host for the AFC North & Goal Podcast with the PFN Podcast Network. You can follow him @CALL_ME_SOS on Twitter.

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