The NFL season is upon us, so we will do what all sports sites do and make predictions. We asked Steve DiMatteo from Dawg Pound Daily, and Matt Wood (Bernie19Kosar) from Dawgs By Nature to join in the fun. Be sure to leave your responses below.
Over/Under 5.5 wins for the Browns.
Steve: My thought going into the season is that if Trent Richardson is healthy, the Browns can win anywhere from five to seven games (if everything – and I do mean everything – goes right). I think the final result will be on the low end of that span, so I’ll take the under.
Matt: Over, but not by much. I know the “experts” say the Browns have a tough schedule, but they said the Browns had an easy one last year (finished with the 6th toughest schedule). If the Browns defense is almost as good as they were last year and the offense can improve, I think the Browns are 7-8 win football team.
Scott: Unfortunately, I’m firmly on the “under” for the 5.5 games this season. I do think that this Browns team will be better than last year’s, but the progression will be met head on by a ridiculously tough schedule. It’s sad when considering the overall outcome, but the 2011 schedule was the one to capitalize on. I do, however, think that one of the five wins will be a divisional game. Silver linings.
Andrew: Under. I have looked at the schedule so many different ways trying to come up with 6 wins. It’s not easy. Let’s say you think Buffalo at home, Cincinnati at home, Kansas City at home, Washington at home, and at Indianapolis are all winnable games. Well, that’s only 5 and the Browns have to be perfect and sweep all those plus sneak one extra win in to get to 6. It’s tough. It’s so unlikely the Browns win all of those 5 “winnable” games. They’ll probably lose a game or two they should win, maybe win a game or two they shouldn’t, and I think they’ll finish right around 4-5 wins again this year.
Craig: I want to take the over, but it’s a bad bet. The Browns have a chance this year, but odds are if things go “right” they will look better than their W/L record indicates, but they still won’t win enough games.
Kirk: Over, I think the Browns win six games. At a quick glance, I’m looking at Washington, Indianapolis, Buffalo, and one Cincinnati game as winnable games. From there, I think there’s a chance that this team is good enough not to get swept 4-0 by Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Then, they’ll win one game they have no business winning. Then again, what do I know? I picked the Tribe to win 91 games!
TD: UNDER. The schedule. The Rookie QB. The question marks all over both sides of the ball. They will be more competitive, but seriously take a look at that schedule and find me more than 4 wins.
Rick: Here’s what I loathe- saying the Browns won’t win 6 games because of the schedule. Here’s a challenge- put together an AFC North schedule that would put the Browns at 7 or 8 wins. What teams in the NFL would you say are ‘locks’ for a Browns W? Under
Brandon Weeden- more touchdown passes or interceptions?
Steve: More touchdown passes, but barely. He’ll make mistakes in his reads, but his accuracy will bail him out as well.
Matt: Touchdowns, but he will finish with 20+ of both. Weeden has an absolute cannon and has always trusted his arm. Once he figures out that the windows in the NFL are much smaller, he will cut down on the interceptions. But expect him to trust his arm more than his eyes early on, and that will lead to some crooked number interception games for Weeden.
Scott: Weeden will have more touchdown passes than interceptions. It may not be a wide gap in the numbers, but I do think that something like 18 touchdowns/13 interceptions seems reasonable.
Andrew: Touchdowns. This is probably wishful thinking. Fearless gun slingers tend to throw a ton of interceptions, especially their rookie seasons. The Browns don’t have a proven, impactful WR group for Weeden to lean on. I mean, heck, Weeden didn’t even throw one lousy TD pass in the entire preseason. Everything is setup for him to really struggle as a rookie. But I don’t know, I just kind of like his maturity and competitiveness (not to mention arm strength), and I think he’ll settle down, fall into a rhythm, and I think he’ll be ok this year and throw more TDs than INTs.
Craig: This is going to be close, but I’ll say he eeks out a few more TD passes than INTs. He’s going to have some games that make us question our existence as fans, but I think he’ll have at least a game or two where he is “hot” and on the same page with his receivers.
Kirk: Brandon Weeden will throw more interceptions than touchdowns. His short passes leave a lot to be desired and that gun-slinging mentality that will make for some beautiful strikes to Gordon, Benjamin, and Little will also lead him to some pick sixes and overthrows.
TD: More INTs. The WR’s are still so young and inexperienced. Nobody is a legit threat. It also remains to be seen how healthy Trent Richardson will be. Weeden is still a rookie QB who is more Ryan Tannehill than Andrew Luck.
Rick: Should I have included fumbles in the equation? Weeden didn’t find the end zone once in the preseason, but I’ll jump on the optimism train and say over.
Over/Under 925 yards rushing for Trent Richardson.
Steve: Definitely under. I have a suspicion Richardson will miss a few games as it is, and defenses will be looking to stop him at all costs in order to completely shut down the Browns’ offense.
Matt: Over. This one will be easy, as long as Richardson stays healthy. With an improved right side of the line, Richardson will be able to be the horse that this offense needs. If I had to put a number on it, Richardson will end up with 1,200 yards rushing and another 400 receiving.
Scott: I’ll go over on the rushing yardage for Richardson. I think he’ll break the 1,000-yard mark, but he’ll do so by playing in 13 or 14 games.
Andrew: Over. Has to be over. If it’s under, the Browns wasted way too much to move up one spot in the draft. You don’t want to put too much pressure on a rookie, but for the Browns’ rebuilding plans to be successful, they desperately need Richardson to pan out. 1,000 yards is an average of 62.5 yards per game over a 16 game season. If Trent Richardson can’t get 65 yards/game this year, the offense is going to be an epic disaster.
Craig: I’ll take the over on this one. He’s going to get lots of opportunities and I think he actually has the talent to live up to the hype.
Kirk: All I can say is it better be over 925 yards for T-Rich. If he doesn’t gain over that, the Browns certainly aren’t winning six games as I predicted above. Even at 80 yards per game, he gets over that mark, but will he play 16 games. Given his start, that’s not likely. I’m still saying over, and I’ll even give him over the 1,000 yard mark.
TD: Over. I am guessing he plays 14 games. To me, the guy is an absolute stud and running behind the Browns left side will do wonders for him. 925 yards isn’t as hard as it sounds. I think Trent should reach that plateau with no issues.
Rick: Interesting answers. Whole lotta confidence in the rookie. I also wonder if I had set the total at 1000 how much different responses would have been. I’ll take the over.
Browns player (other than Thomas or Mack) most likely to make the Pro Bowl.
Steve: Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, the model of consistency when healthy, could have himself another Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Matt: Richardson is the easy pick, so I am going to go with Haden. Even with a possible suspension, Haden will still be the AFC’s 2nd best cornerback for 12 games and will head to Hawaii. He will get some star studded match-ups this year (DeSean Jackson, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, Stevie Johnson, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, etc.) and if he gets the better of them, the publicity will follow. We all know that the Pro Bowl is nothing more than a popularity contest.
Scott: If Joe Haden avoids suspension, I think this could be the year he gets named to the Pro Bowl. If he doesn’t my vote goes to D’Qwell Jackson who could lead the league in tackles once again.
Andrew: Phil Dawson. I don’t understand how the whole Pro Bowl selection thing works for special teams guys, but Phil Dawson is 8th among active kickers in career FG made, and among the 7 ahead of him, only Sebastian Janikowski is younger. Dawson has the 12th best career FG% with only two guys ahead of him being retired (the implication being, a lot of the guys ahead of Dawson are young guys whose % is likely to go down with age). And yet Dawson has never been a Pro Bowler and was once named 2nd team All Pro in 2007. To me, Dawson looks sharper than ever and seems to continuously get better with age. Maybe this year will finally be the year he gets a little respect and earns a Pro Bowl bid.
Craig: Josh Cribbs makes a triumphant return to special teams full time. Cribbs is lighter this year. He will be focused on special teams. It is a contract year. I’ll bet on Cribbs.
Kirk: Because of his dazzling plays, big name, and high draft status, Richardson is the easy choice here for most likely to make it. I’ll give honorable mention to Phil Dawson for a lifetime achievement and D’Qwell Jackson.
TD: D’Qwell Jackson – one of the most underrated players in the game. He will get his due this year.
Rick: I think Richardson is a possibility. Haden is a possibility. D’Qwell Jackson could make 180 tackles 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, and I’ll never see how that makes him a Pro Bowl player. Cribbs? Don’t think so. Phil Dawson should get to go before he retires, but I’m going to say Reggie Hodges. He is money, and should have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.
Rookie to have the biggest impact this season.
Steve: Trent Richardson, though whether that’s a positive or negative impact remains to be seen.
Matt: Weeden. Richardson will be the better player, but this is a Quarterback league and the key word here is “impact”. Ask the Jaguars and Vikings if Quarterback or Running Back have more impact on their seasons. Weeden’s ability to stretch the field with Little, Benjamin and Gordon will make life easier for the offense, that alone will make this team much better.
Scott: Trent Richardson, with Josh Gordon not far behind.
Andrew: Trent Richardson. If he is who we think he is, he will just make everything flow better on offense. His ability to eat up yardage should make for more manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations compared to what we’re used to in Cleveland, his running ability will open things up for Weeden in the passing game, and his ability to pick up the blitz and catch out of the backfield will be huge assets for this offense. I just can’t see how any other rookie will impact so many different facets of the team.
Craig: Trent Richardson. Richardson represents the biggest position player acquisition of talent for the Browns since drafting Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow.
Kirk: Overall, Weeden is going to determine whether this team can go vertical and stretch the field and ultimately win games. I’m confident that he can, but there’s going to be several bumps in the road.
TD: Has to be Richardson. This guy is the best running back the Browns have had in their stable since Jim Brown. If he comes back 100% healthy, he has all the makings of being our Ladanian Tomlinson in his prime. A dominant Richardson will open things up for the passing game and make Brandon Weeden better. But to answer the question, it has to be Richardson.
Rick: Watch this- I’m going to say Josh Gordon. Here’s why- if Gordon doesn’t show flashes of being a #1 WR, it could greatly influence whether Tom Heckert stays with the team past this season, and what the Browns do in next year’s draft. Can you imagine them having to select a WR in the first round having spent the second rounder on a WR already?
Over/Under 12.5 starts for Brandon Weeden.
Steve: Over. I want to say he even makes it through a full season, but who am I kidding?
Matt: Over. Already touched on the improved offensive line, so he should avoid most of the big time damage. Add in the fact that Suggs is already hurt and James Harrison should be locked up when we play, that takes a lot of pressure away. McCoy will not be a factor other than for some radio fodder when Weeden tosses 3 picks in a game early on.
Scott: If healthy, Brandon Weeden will start 16 games. Even if he gets dinged up, I think he starts at least 13 of them — over.
Andrew: Over. Barring injury, he’ll start all 16 games. For better or worse, this guy is the Browns’ present and future. Pulling him midway through his rookie season won’t do anyone a bit of good.
Craig: Over. The offensive line won’t be perfect all year, but the Browns will protect their first year QB with a running attack and the offensive line will get better as the season progresses.
Kirk: Over, Weeden will start 14 games with Colt relieving him only when Brandon gets nicked up midseason.
TD: Over. I think the big strong kid will stay healthy all year, take his lumps, and make all 16 starts.
Rick: Wow. Everyone took the over. Really? Forget being benched for lack of performance, I can’t see that happening. But Cleveland QBs don’t have a great history of staying healthy and playing all 16 games lately. I’ll reluctantly take the under.
Over/Under 3.5 interceptions for Joe Haden.
Steve: Under, and a looming four-game suspension certainly won’t help.
Matt: Under. It won’t because of his ability, it will be from a lack of opportunities. Teams will realize that an improved Haden is nothing to mess with, so they will attack elsewhere. I think Sheldon Brown is better than many give him credit for, but I think we will get burned a lot by our Linebackers in coverage.
Scott: Even if he misses four games, I think Joe Haden can haul in at least four picks. Going over here as well.
Andrew: Under. I expect he’ll be suspended for 4 games at some point, and he’s not necessarily an INT type of CB. He gets his hands on a lot of balls, but his natural instinct seems to be to knock the ball away rather than go for the INT. And that’s fine with me, as long as he’s preventing the opponent from completing passes.
Craig: I’d like to take the over, but I’ll take the under. I’m assuming Haden will serve at least a couple games suspension, if not the full four games. That being the case, I can’t bet on him going over 3.5 interceptions even though it isn’t a gaudy total.
Kirk: Under, Haden may miss one-quarter of the season and opposing teams are going to continue to pick on the waste of space that is Sheldon Brown as well as Patterson, Skrine, etc. I’ll give Haden three picks, but no more.
TD: Over. Love his game. Hope his suspension isnt too long.
Rick: I think Haden is determined to get picks this year. He has shown aggressiveness in the preseason.. Even with a suspension, I’ll take the over.
Undrafted rookie with biggest impact on Browns.
Steve: With all of the injuries that are ravaging the linebacker position, L.J. Fort has a chance to make a real impact, which is exactly what he did throughout training camp and the preseason.
Matt: Johnson Bademosi. I realize this is an odd pick, but hear me out. Bademosi was kept on the roster over David Sims, which really surprised most fans. But Bademosi is going to make a massive impact on Special Teams. The ST units were terrible last season, and if he can come in and make a few impact plays, he will be worth it. Plus, I don’t see many other UDFA getting many opportunities.
Scott: The undrafted rookie with the biggest impact will be linebacker Craig Robertson.
Andrew: I’m going with LJ Fort. With the lack of LB depth, there will probably be plenty of opportunity for him to play both in special teams and at LB.
Craig: I think the only answer to this question is L.J. Fort for the Browns this year. That doesn’t mean that I think Fort will have a giant impact either. He’ll have the biggest though.
Kirk: Given the lack of depth at linebacker, this is a no-brainer for L.J. Fort, who may end up starting a good chunk of the season.
TD: Craig Robertson – I loved what I saw of him in the preseason. I think he will be great on special teams and eventually work his way onto the field.
Rick: The only one I see getting immediate playing time is Fort. I didn’t see why Robertson got the hype in preseason that he did.
Thanks again to Steve and Matt for their input. Ok, now tell us where we got it wrong.