BALTIMORE (92.3 The Fan) –Coming off of a 1-15 season, it wasn’t expected that the Browns were going to take some quantum leap into contention in 2017.
Such an expectation wasn’t fair, let alone reasonable.
However, they may finally be able to climb out of the AFC North cellar where they’ve resided the last 6 seasons and 12 of the 14 years that the division has existed thanks to some help from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Through 2 games it is the Bengals who look like the dumpster fire of the division after failing to score a touchdown in either of their losses and subsequently firing their offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and replacing him with quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor while the Browns look like the up-and-comer of the group following a tough Week 1 21-18 loss to the Steelers.
Cleveland weakened the Bengals with the hiring of Hue Jackson, who served as their offensive coordinator for 2 seasons but had spent 6 years with the franchise, as head coach in 2016. Jackson mentored quarterback Andy Dalton, who appears to have regressed without him. This year one of Dalton’s key protectors, right guard Kevin Zeitler, was lured away by the Browns to come protect rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.
It is early in the season where snap judgments are made but don’t always necessarily remain reality as the season progresses, but the Browns looked like a different football team, even in a loss against Pittsburgh and if they play like that over the final 15 games, wins will follow.
Gregg Williams’ defense looked transformed as they forced three three-and-outs, picked off a pass and limited the Steelers to just 2 scoring drives while Kizer showed promise despite a less than perfect debut.
But that is just one week, and there are 15 games to go.
Sunday afternoon we’ll get a better picture on what type of Browns team this really is once the clock hits 00:00 in Baltimore but win or lose to the Ravens, the schedule over the next 6 weeks leading up to the bye week is very appealing and opportunities to tally a few wins present themselves.
The Colts await in Indianapolis next weekend and it’s likely they won’t have Andrew Luck at quarterback meaning Williams’ defense should be able to feast again. The Bengals at home follows on Oct. 1, and we’ve already covered the inferno along the banks of the Ohio river, before the whatever the Jets are doing in New York fly into town on the eighth at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Texans coach Bill O’Brien has already turned to rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to inject some life into his offense and he did just that Thursday night in Cincinnati but they are hardly invincible come Oct. 15 followed by a visit from the Titans which takes us up to the trip to London against the Vikings Oct. 29.
The Browns blew 3 chances to win games early in the season a year ago by blowing a 20-0 lead against the Ravens in Week 2, missing a field goal as time expired the following week at Miami and then turnovers in the second half turned the tide in Washington against the Redskins sending the campaign spiraling out of control.
We’ll see just how far Jackson’s team has come with winnable games against the Colts, Bengals and Jets the next 3 weeks on the horizon.
Before they can look ahead, the Browns remain focused on an important test against the Ravens Sunday but from a big picture view opportunity knocks to finally get out of the cellar.