The regular season has finally arrived and football fans everywhere rejoice, especially in Cleveland. Despite the Indians fighting to stay in the playoff race and the hype of the Cavaliers, this is a Browns town. The Cleveland Browns have an amazing fan base that remains loyal regardless of recent struggles. This year could be different, but carving the road to success won’t be an easy task.

Since returning to the league in 1999, Cleveland has listed 20 different starting quarterbacks, in addition to eight head coaches. Stability is an obvious concern, especially with Jimmy Haslem III as the owner. Entering his third year as the Browns owner, Haslem is going on his third head coach and general manager. To be fair though, Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert were hired by the former owner, so they were expected to get fired. Needless to say, Cleveland searched for a head coach this summer and it was a tedious wait, but concluded with the hiring of Mike Pettine.

Considering that this is his first head coaching job, our expectations should be tempered. Pettine may not have experience as a head coach, but is regarded as a defensive guru throughout his years as a defensive coordinator. Under his control, the Cleveland Browns can produce a shutdown defense capable of controlling a game. This Sunday presents the perfect opportunity to showcase our defense.

The Browns kick off the season in Pittsburgh against our most hated rival, the Steelers. There are plenty of intriguing matchups to watch out for. Cleveland’s defensive line is strong enough to contain Ben Roethlisberger. Additionally, the depth of our line should provide plenty of rest to counteract the no huddle offense ran by the Steelers.

On the subject of defense, Joe Haden versus Antonio Brown is the key matchup. This battle should be quite entertaining. Brown will get his catches, but Haden must limit his yards after the catch. The wide receiver is known for his ability to get open on broken plays and “Big Ben” creates these opportunities often. Haden is a tremendous cornerback who must be at the top of his game to disrupt the chemistry between quarterback and receiver.

Ultimately, this divisional game could set the tone for the whole season. The Browns defense can showcase their talent while the offense attempts to find an identity. With Kyle Shanahan’s system, Cleveland will create a ground and pound identity with Ben Tate and Terrence West. Unfortunately, without our playmaker, Josh Gordon, completing passes to a consistent receiver will be difficult. For this reason, the responsibility falls on Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins, and Miles Austin to be reliable and productive.

In the end, the Cleveland Browns 2014 season kicks off this Sunday at 1:00 pm. Hopefully, this campaign will be a memorable one. Regardless of the results, Clevelanders will always back their Browns, whether it be through tailgating or sitting at home in their pajamas. So I ask you, how will you support your team?

-Max Gold

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