2011 Cleveland Browns Predictions and NFL Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 8/18/2011
Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert have decided to take the Cleveland Browns in a different direction. Eric Mangini is out and Pat Shurmur is in as the new head coach of this team. Shurmur runs the same system on both offense and defense that Holmgren used when he was a successful head coach in the league. The Browns are hoping this change at the top will lead to a real turnaround in the years ahead. Browns fans are passionate about football, but they haven’t had much to cheer about in the last few years.
The Browns weren’t all that active in the offseason as far bringing in new players. They let go of Jake Delhomme, who never proved to be productive in his time with the team. Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith are both gone from the defensive line. For the most part, the Browns appear to be trying to change their fortunes by picking up a new coaching staff and developing the youngsters on their roster.
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Colt McCoy will be the starter under center for the Browns. McCoy did a nice job as a rookie quarterback on a bad team last season. Shurmur will serve as the offensive coordinator for this team, and most believe that his West Coast offense will help McCoy develop even further. The one area where McCoy has struggled the most has been the deep ball, and the West Coast offense stresses the importance of the quick, short passes.
Peyton Hillis went from an unknown guy to the cover of the Madden 12 video game in the course of the year, so he was obviously doing something right last season. Hillis is an extremely hard working back, and he has amazing quickness for his size. He ran for 1,177 yards last year, and he caught 61 passes out of the backfield.
Despite the emergence of Hillis and the solid play of McCoy, the Browns offense was near the bottom of the NFL last year. The team needs to get better play out of the offensive line and wide receivers.
Dick Jauron will step in as the team’s defensive coordinator this season. Jauron and the Browns defense will switch back to a 4-3 defense. The single biggest problem with this defense is its inability to get pressure on the quarterback. Cleveland picked up only 29 sacks a year ago, and the Browns lost a couple of their top pass rushers from last year’s team. The Browns are lacking in depth at the defensive end position. In the middle of the front line, the Browns hope first round draft pick Phil Taylor proves to be a great run stopper.
The Browns secondary is led by talented cornerback Joe Haden. Haden established himself as a very good cover corner last year, and I expect him to continue to get better. Sheldon Brown will start at the other cornerback spot. After Haden and Brown, the Browns are really short-handed at the cornerback and safety positions. Cleveland really needs their stars in the secondary to stay healthy.
One of the reasons the Browns were a little more competitive than some expected last year was their excellent special teams play. Phil Dawson is an extremely reliable placekicker, and he will be back once again this season. Josh Cribbs is one of the best kick returners in the league, and he can take it to the house at any time. He had a bit of a down season last year, but I expect him to bounce back this season.
2011 Cleveland Browns Schedule
It would be difficult to find an easier schedule than the one that the Cleveland Browns have this season. Cleveland has an especially easy slate at the beginning of the year. This should really benefit a young team that is learning a new system. The Browns host Cincinnati, Miami, Tennessee, and Seattle in the first six weeks of the season. Life gets more difficult for the Browns in the last month of the year, because they play both the Ravens and the Steelers twice during this stretch. Overall, the Browns have a very favorable schedule this season.
Cleveland Browns NFL Futures Odds
The Browns still play in a very tough division in the AFC North. WagerWeb lists the Browns at +950 to win this highly competitive division. BetOnline has listed the Browns at +3,000 to win the AFC Championship. What about the team total for the Browns this season? BetOnline has placed the ‘over/under’ at 6.5 wins. JustBet lists the Browns at a hefty +6,500 to win the Super Bowl.
2011 Cleveland Browns Predictions
I do believe that this is a franchise moving in the right direction. The Browns have far too many holes to contend in the AFC North, but they should definitely improve. An easy schedule and a system that better suits McCoy and the offense should lead to some more wins for this team. The defense will struggle to create pressure on the quarterback, which will definitely hurt this team’s chances of making a big jump in the standings. I think the Browns will go 7-9 -- meaning my NFL season win totals predictions say take the ‘over’ -- this year and finish third in the AFC North.
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