The Cleveland Browns do have a strong roster on paper and are built to compete with their divisional opponents. They have made strategic additions to match up against the strengths of teams in the AFC North, such as acquiring elite corners to match up against the Bengals, having two elite edge rushers like the Steelers, and having a strong running game like the Ravens. Sweeping a divisional opponent, particularly the Bengals, could greatly increase their chances of securing a playoff berth. However, past disappointments, like the underwhelming 2019 season, remind us that the AFC North is a highly competitive division. The Browns finished at the bottom last year, and they face tough competition from teams like the Bengals, Ravens, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos in the AFC. With only seven playoff spots available, the Browns will need to beat out these teams to have a shot at the postseason.
While the Bengals haven’t shown significant improvements and the Ravens have a new system to learn, the Steelers and the Browns both have questions at the quarterback position. Deshaun Watson, if he can regain his elite form, could be the key to the Browns’ success. However, changing the culture and becoming a playoff contender is usually a gradual process, and the Browns will need to consistently perform well to build solid hopes.
It is worth noting that historically, the Browns have made the playoffs only twice in the last 24 years, which makes it a challenging task to build strong expectations. The team has undergone a building process since 2018 and has made good draft picks. Acquiring Watson was a significant move, although missing Baker Mayfield set them back. The success of head coach Stefanski will also depend on how he can unlock the potential of an elite quarterback like Watson, as many coaches in NFL history have had success with franchise-caliber quarterbacks.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether the Browns can overcome their past struggles, compete in the tough AFC North, and secure a playoff spot. The pieces are in place, but they need to prove themselves on the field and show consistent performance.