Cleveland Browns Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVApril 24, 2014

Cleveland Browns Schedule 2014: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns are coming off of a four-win season in a familiar position—adjusting to a new head coach, a new front office and dodging questions about the quarterback position.

    However, NFL teams certainly can turn around their fortunes in the span of one offseason. It's just that this is even more difficult a task in Cleveland, where the Browns haven't had a winning year since 2007 and where stability is a luxury they haven't yet afforded themselves.

    With the 2014 schedule release on Wednesday, we now have the opportunity to take a look at the Browns' opponents on a week-by-week basis and make a few early predictions. Things will certainly change, courtesy of the upcoming draft, in which the Browns have 10 picks. But for what we know now, educated guesses of how the Browns' season will play out are worth taking a stab at.

    Here are game-by-game predictions for the Browns' 2014 season.

Week 1: Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Browns could be on the upswing this year, but so could be the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have gone 8-8 in their last two seasons and missed the playoffs each time as a result. Two upwardly-trending rivals taking on each other in Week 1 should make for compelling football, but will it result in a win for the Browns?

    In Pittsburgh, it just doesn't seem likely. There are ways it could happen, of course—Josh Gordon could have a monster day against aging Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, the Browns' pass rush could bother Ben Roethlisberger behind a line that didn't improve much even with the addition of Mike Munchak as its coach, the Steelers may not be able to stop the run.

    Anything is possible—"Any given Sunday," is a cliche for a reason—but as the two rosters stand at present, the uphill battle in this matchup belongs to the Browns. The Browns will potentially be fielding a rookie quarterback to go along with their rookie head coach in Mike Pettine. Youth and inexperience rarely find footholds against the Steelers of recent years, and the Browns seem to be headed toward a similar fate to open the season.

    Prediction: Steelers, 21-10

Week 2: Browns vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The New Orleans Saints went 11-5 last season, reaching the playoffs after missing out in 2012. Their success can be owed to their performance at home, where they went 8-0; on the road, they were a disappointing 3-5.

    The Saints might yet again struggle on the road, but it just doesn't seem likely—not for a team that's approaching 2014 with an all-in mentality in order to win another Super Bowl with now 35-year old quarterback Drew Brees.

    Brees has thrown for over 5,000 yards in each of his last three seasons. Stopping him is difficult—he's a well-protected quarterback who was sacked just 37 times in 2013. The Saints also boast a much-improved defense thanks to coordinator Rob Ryan. 

    It would be a coup if the Browns could best a perennial Super Bowl favorite like the Saints. While playing at home does help Cleveland's odds, the Saints are a well-established juggernaut that won't likely be caught by a Browns team still trying to forge their identity in Week 2.

    Prediction: Saints, 27-13

Week 3: Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Baltimore Ravens have a lot of work to do if they want to improve upon their 8-8 finish to 2013, but if they don't accomplish it, the Browns can take advantage of it when they host the team in Week 3.

    The main area of weakness for the Ravens in 2013 was their offensive line, which contributed to a franchise-low in rushing yards and a career high 48 sacks for quarterback Joe Flacco. If this continues into 2014, the Browns could pounce when the two teams meet in Cleveland.

    Browns head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil are all about being aggressive on defense and bringing pressure to quarterbacks. If that works in concert with a poor Ravens offensive line, then even a few miscues on offense will still enable the Browns to come away with a win.

    The Browns could find themselves with a defense talented enough to hold opponents to few points. If that is the case, this home game against the Ravens could be a low-scoring victory for Cleveland. Baltimore's offense may not be able to bounce back as much as they had hoped this year.

    Prediction: Browns, 13-7

Week 5: Browns at Tennessee Titans

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Tennessee Titans seem like a team ripe for the Browns to shock at home in Week 5. Their roster doesn't shine, quarterback Jake Locker's potential hasn't yet been fully tapped and the offense and defense both are lacking in playmakers.

    Much can change between now and October, but the Browns seem already like the better team on paper, despite the recent coaching and front-office turnover. The Titans won't be able to match the Browns' ferociousness on defense and they possess no players comparable to Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron or even Ben Tate.

    Though the Titans were 7-9 last year, they were just 3-5 at home. The Browns should be able to roll into town and get their most decisive victory of the season against a Titans team that has yet to coalesce. This is just the game the Browns need after their Week 4 bye and difficult first three weeks of the season. 

    Prediction: Browns, 27-13

Week 6: Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they have defeated the rival Pittsburgh Steelers just five times. That's not to say that it cannot be done this year, but it cannot be denied that in the years the Steelers were building up a Super Bowl-caliber roster, the Browns continued to flounder, jumping between coaches and quarterbacks in hopes of finding a combination that stuck.

    The Browns seem to be headed in the right direction as of this writing, but it's something said after seemingly every rebuild the team has undertaken. It helps that they have 10 picks in the 2014 draft, but what they do with them matters more than the sheer volume of opportunities they have to select players. 

    What is known is that the Browns have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Josh Gordon, a reason to feel better about the run game after signing free agent back Ben Tate and an aggressive defensive philosophy that should yield better results than Ray Horton's last year.

    But it might not be enough against the Steelers this year, even on the Browns' home turf. Rebuilding is a process, one that can take more than an offseason—or even six weeks into the regular season to accomplish. While Cleveland will keep this game close, the Steelers are wily veterans while in comparison, the Browns are relative greenhorns.

    Prediction: Steelers, 17-13

Week 7: Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars have spent the last few years being the butt of jokes, because of both teams' seeming inability to improve their respective situations. From coaching changes to the failure to find the right quarterback, the Browns and Jaguars have been parallel comedies of errors.

    2014 could be the year one or both of these franchises turn things around, though it will take more than a good showing in Week 7 to make it happen. Both teams seem to have already improved just during the offseason, with free agency being a source of wealth.

    The Jaguars have replaced Maurice Jones-Drew with Toby Gerhart, committed themselves to Chad Henne as their starting quarterback and added defensive end Chris Clemons. The Browns brought on running back Ben Tate, successfully retained center Alex Mack (who had signed an offer sheet with the Jaguars) and improved their defense by signing linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Donte Whitner.

    The Jaguars, however, have the benefit of being more comfortable with their coaching staff and a very formidable home-field advantage. This gives them the edge over the Browns in this game. These are well-matched teams, however, so it could be a close one.

    Prediction: Jaguars, 20-17

Week 8: Browns vs. Oakland Raiders

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 4:25 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    If there's any team to rival the Browns in its attempt to right the ship and find stability and sustained success, it's the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders come to Cleveland in Week 8 and it looks that fortune is on the Browns' side for this matchup, pending the developments to come in the remainder of the offseason.

    It seems like the Raiders have solved their quarterback problem by signing Matt Schaub, however Schaub's 2013 season in which he threw 10 touchdowns to 14 interceptions still raises questions about whether they made the right decision. The Browns' quarterback situation is still yet to be determined but they could end up with the better man.

    The Browns' passing game is also helped by receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, a one-two punch that the Raiders cannot boast, nor can their defense properly defend. The mismatches the pair present will tip the scales in the Browns' favor, especially because they also have the home-field advantage.

    Prediction: Browns, 20-13

Week 9: Browns vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: FOX

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a similar situation as the Browns, with a new coaching staff and quarterback and a desire to enter the realm of being a playoff contender.

    The difference, however, is that the Buccaneers have an experienced head coach in Lovie Smith and a 35-year old veteran quarterback in Josh McCown. The Browns have a first-year head coach in Mike Pettine, and, depending on what happens in May, potentially a rookie quarterback under center or Brian Hoyer, who had just three starts in 2013 before injuring his knee.

    Still, experience doesn't trump talent. Though the Buccaneers have in McCown a quarterback who threw just one interception in 2013, the odds aren't good he'll repeat that performance in his new location. Making matters more difficult for him will be Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who will likely be locking down receiver Vincent Jackson, as well as the pressure produced from the Browns defensive front.

    The Browns need to focus on defense winning out in this contest. They'll be able to keep the Buccaneers' points low—low enough to eke out a close, hard-fought victory.

    Prediction: Browns, 13-10

Week 10: Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

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    Kickoff Time: 8:25 PM ET (Thursday Night Football)

    Network: NFL Network

    The Cincinnati Bengals have good weeks and bad weeks, thanks mostly to their quarterback, Andy Dalton. When they're good, they're very, very good, however—and that's just the team the Browns will face on the road in Week 10.

    The Bengals possess many weapons on both offense and defense that makes them one of the most complete and dangerous teams in the NFL. They will all be on display when they host the Browns this season—from A.J. Green to Giovanni Bernard, from Vontaze Burfict to Geno Atkins. When the Bengals are on the same page and all playing to the best of their abilities, they are nearly unstoppable.

    The Browns are trying to build a dynamic, high-scoring offense to pair with an aggressive defense, but to reach that endpoint will take time and more than a few stumbles along the way. This game in Week 10 will be a prime example of that. The Bengals might be a young team, but the Browns are younger and trying to build an identity that the Bengals have already found.

    Prediction: Bengals, 31-13

Week 11: Browns vs. Houston Texans

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM

    Network: CBS

    The Browns may have ended the 2013 season with a 4-12 record, but that wasn't the worst finish in the league. That unfortunate distinction belongs to the Houston Texans, who won just two games last year.

    The Browns host the Texans this year and both teams are hoping to turn their fortunes around. The climb for both will be steep and a good measuring stick for how well either has managed to head in the right direction is when the two teams meet in Week 11.

    Both the Browns and Texans have questions at quarterback that will potentially take the remainder of the offseason to answer. The decisions the two teams make at the position will have a lot to do with the outcome of this game, but so will other factors, such as the effectiveness of their respective run games and defenses.

    Former Texans running back Ben Tate, now with the Browns, could be the game-changer. So could Texans starting back, Arian Foster, especially with his injury history. The Browns will also need to account for Houston defensive end J.J. Watt—no matter who their quarterback is, limiting Watt's impact on the game will be necessary for a Cleveland win.

    Ultimately, the Browns may have the longer history of losing but the Texans have a bigger hole to dig themselves out of. If the Browns have an intelligent, measured approach in this home contest, they should manage to earn a win.

    Prediction: Browns, 20-14

Week 12: Browns at Atlanta Falcons

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    Like the Browns, the Atlanta Falcons ended their 2013 campaign with a 4-12 record. However, unlike the Browns, this was thoroughly out of their recent character. That's reason enough to believe the Falcons can bounce back from their poor showing last season and return to the playoff picture.

    The Falcons struggled because the offensive line was in shambles and many key players suffered injuries. A healthier 2014 should result in improvement—this isn't a back-to-back four-win team. The Browns may not be, either, but Atlanta should prove too tough a road contest for them to win this season.

    The Browns need to keep Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on his heels, but that may be not as easy in 2014 as it was last year. Ryan has something to prove this year and high on his list will be to dominate on his home field. The Browns will likely bring some good pressure and will test the Falcons defense with the field-stretching skills of Josh Gordon, but it won't be enough. 

    Prediction: Falcons, 24-14

Week 13: Browns at Buffalo Bills

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Browns had to Buffalo this season to face the Bills, where last year current Browns head coach Mike Pettine served as defensive coordinator. This game isn't about revenge, but it will certainly carry with it some level of Pettine wanting to prove himself to his former team. The motivation that supplies the Browns cannot be underestimated.

    Further, the Bills seem mired in a mediocre-at-best situation with their roster. Much will depend on how quarterback EJ Manuel can develop in his second season. At least he has running back C.J. Spiller to help alleviate pressure, but it won't matter if Pettine and Jim O'Neil's defense keeps him bottled up.

    The Bills had an impressive defense last year, but with the two main architects of it in Cleveland, the scales tip in the Browns' favor in this road contest. Even with a question mark at quarterback presently, the Browns just look like the significantly better team for 2014.

    Prediction: Browns, 14-10

Week 14: Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Indianapolis Colts were the sole darlings of the AFC South in 2013 and their rise among the ranks of the NFL's more elite teams doesn't seem to be slowing. That's bad news for the Browns, who host the team in Week 14.

    The Colts' secret weapon is quarterback Andrew Luck, who has already more than justified his team using the 2012 first-overall draft pick on him. Luck has used his incredible football intelligence and talent to help the Colts overcome a poor pass-protecting offensive line and an up-and-down run game. Whatever opponents throw at him, he can seemingly shrug it off.

    That's why, despite the Browns' commitment to aggressive defense and the potential they will have a much improved overall offense this year, they won't be a match for the Colts come December. This is a team that felled the likes of the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs (twice) last year. The Browns won't be a major obstacle.

    Unless the Colts struggle on the road or Luck takes a major leap backwards, the Browns will likely be unsuccessful in their attempt to fell the "giant killers" this season.

    Prediction: Colts, 27-17

Week 15: Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Browns will have quite the task on their hands when the host the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15, but it's not a challenge they cannot handle.

    Though the Bengals had an 11-5 record last season, they were yet again one-and-done in the playoffs and struggled against the likes of the eight-win Miami Dolphins and to the Browns themselves. This is mainly attributable to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's wild fluctuation in performance, something that likely won't be turned completely around in 2014.

    Dalton wilts under pressure and is naturally inaccurate with his shorter passes. Granted, his shortcomings as a quarterback can be masked by the one-two punch of running backs Giovanni Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But, if the Browns can seal the running lanes early in the game, Dalton will have no choice but to take the game into his own hands.

    In this meeting in Cleveland, Dalton won't be able to handle the pressure to such a degree that the Bengals won't get a single touchdown, instead settling for field goals. And where A.J. Green will be shut down, Josh Gordon won't, leading to the Browns making just enough plays on both sides of the ball to win.

    Prediction: Browns, 14-6

Week 16: Browns at Carolina Panthers

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Carolina Panthers were surprisingly dominant in 2014, going 12-4 and taking the top spot in the NFC South. Their dominance was two-fold—one, their defense led the league with 60 sacks and was overwhelming to opposing quarterbacks and two, Cam Newton finally began to meet his full potential while the offense around him continued to shine.

    Newton underwent ankle surgery last month and is without his top weapons from 2013, with receivers Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell leaving for new teams. That may result in a drop-off for the Panthers offense this year, but their brutal defense should remain playing at a high level.

    The Browns defense could be similar to Carolina's this year, but they won't be able to lead Cleveland to a win against a team that had only one defeat at home last season. As long as the Panthers can re-build their receiving corps and Newton's ankle stays stable, the combination of their offense and defense will be too much for Cleveland to handle late in the season and on the road.

    Prediction: Panthers, 23-17

Week 17: Browns at Baltimore Ravens

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    Kickoff Time: 1:00 PM ET

    Network: CBS

    The Baltimore Ravens lost only two games at home last year and they possess one of the stronger home-field advantages in the NFL. Sometimes, a home field is the only advantage a team needs and it will certainly factor in when the Browns head to Baltimore to end the season in Week 17.

    Because the Ravens offense may not be where it needs to be in 2014 despite improvements already made on offensive line and the addition of wide receiver Steve Smith, the Browns could keep this game close and low scoring. However, the Ravens are the more experienced team and have no quarterback questions heading into the season.

    This level of experience and comfort will give them the edge against a Browns team that is likely to throw everything they have at them, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Ravens' not-so-secret weapon, kicker Justin Tucker, will be the difference-maker in this game, resulting in a Browns road loss.

    Prediction: Ravens, 13-10