Don’t you just love some of these NFL fan sites? When doing a little research on this story to analyze the 2010 Cleveland Browns schedule and futures odds, I couldn’t help but chuckle when many of them had Cleveland possibly starting 2-0 – ah, preseason optimism, yet the team actually could -- but then if the Browns somehow dropped their first two Browns fans were looking at probably at least a 0-9 start.
Of course the Browns enter off another disastrous, non-playoff season, going 5-11 but actually ending the season on a four-game winning streak. Believe it or not, that’s tied for the second-longest winning streak to carry over into the 2010 regular season (with Houston) behind San Diego’s 11-game run. That winning streak probably saved Coach Eric Mangini’s job, but new boss Mike Holmgren still dumped the team’s two main starting quarterbacks from last year, Derek Anderson and Brady Qunn. Not sure the Browns upgraded much with Jake Delhomme, who was a turnover machine last year with the Panthers (eight TDs, 18 picks) before getting the boot. Don’t be shocked if Seneca Wallace, another new addition, gets on the field sooner than later. Cleveland has no plans to let rookie Colt McCoy see the field this season.
One of the bright spots at the end of last season was running back Jerome Harrison, who had 106 carries for 561 yards and five touchdowns in the final three weeks. Yet it’s likely he’s part of a platoon with rookie second-round pick Montario Hardesty, although Hardesty has missed all of camp with a knee injury and still isn’t back. Apparently Hardesty was very impressive before the injury. The receivers are a big question mark on this team, although Josh Cribbs is a unique talent who should be used all over the field. The offensive line is actually a strength.
The defense surrendered the second-most points in the NFL last season but it wasn’t all that bad – all those three and outs and turnovers by the offense didn’t help. That unit added three rookies to the secondary – led by No. 7 overall pick Joe Haden – along with Sheldon Brown from the Eagles as well as veteran linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong, but the Browns did dump former first-round pick Kamerion Wimbley. The defense should at least be middle-of-the-pack and Cribbs is one of the best return men and all-around threats in the game. Otherwise there’s not much to get excited about here.
Cleveland’s ‘over/under’ for NFL season win totals is 5.5. Let’s break down the 2010 Cleveland Browns schedule:
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 12, at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 10, Atlanta, 1:00 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 24, at New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, New England, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 28, Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 5, at Miami, 1:00 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
This is ranked as the 10th-toughest schedule in the NFL, with an opponents’ 2009 winning percentage .516 (132-124). There are seven games against playoff teams from last year.
One of the oddest streaks in the NFL ends in Week 1 – Cleveland had opened its season at home the previous 11 years. The team was 1-10 in those 11, including five losses in a row. Certainly the Browns could win at Tampa Bay, which was 3-13 last year. But Cleveland is a three-point dog on WagerWeb. And the Browns should be a rare favorite in Week 2 against the Chiefs, a team that Cleveland beat 42-34 at K.C. in Week 15 last year. That game was easily the highlight of the year because Harrison ran for a club-record 286 yards and Cribbs broke the NFL’s all-time kickoff return touchdowns mark with runbacks of 100 and 103 yards, respectively.
Following the Chiefs, I’m not sure you can guarantee Cleveland will be a favorite again as its remaining home games are all against 2009 playoff teams or those who should be in contention for the postseason this year. Maybe the Browns can handle Cincy at home, but the Bengals now have the longest stretch of domination in the series' history, winning nine of the past 11 games. That Steelers game is likely to be the season debut of Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to have his suspension reduced to four games (Steelers on a bye in Week 5).
Things don’t get any easier starting in Week 11 with four of the next five on the road. The Browns have beaten the Jags by 23-17 scores in the past two seasons. Let’s see if Delhomme is still starting when his former Panthers come to Ohio (doubt it). Cleveland should be in wintry conditions in each of its final four games. It has actually beaten Buffalo in each of the past three years.
There are maybe four players on this team who might start for any of the other three clubs in the AFC North, so I can’t see five wins on this schedule. Look for a 4-12 record, so take the ‘under’.
Allen Eastman is back with his 99 System for NFL picks in 2010 and before he even came across this system he was considered one of the best NFL handicappers in the business – now he is just unstoppable. Last season the 99 System was 27-13 ATS and this system not only helped his clients make a boatload of money, but also helped Eastman to third place in the prestigious Las Vegas Hilton NFL Contest.