Cleveland Browns Predictions 2011: Breaking Down Every Game This Season
As the 2011 NFL season gets underway, we take a look at the Cleveland Browns 2011 schedule, game by game. A rocky 2010 campaign brought about many changes for the Browns in 2011. Head coach Eric Mangini was fired after the season, replaced by Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, in his first head coaching job in the NFL. The Browns also hired long time NFL coach Dick Jauron to take control of the defense.
With a new West Coast offensive scheme to implement and a new 4-3 defense, the Browns have a lot to handle this season, but this Browns team may take the NFL by surprise.
Game 1: Bengals vs. Browns
The Browns kick off the season with their first home game against their interstate rival, the Cincinatti Bengals on September 11th.
For as much as the Browns have gone through this offseason, the Bengals are dealing with just a little more. After losing Carson Palmer to "retirement" and Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots, the Bengals are definitely searching for weapons. They did have a strong draft class bringing in Georgia receiver A.J. Green, and TCU Quarterback Andy Dalton, but with draft picks always come big question marks.
As Andy Dalton makes his first start as an NFL quarterback against a great Browns' defensive backfield, starring 2010 draft picks Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, he'll be under a lot of pressure, that he, quite frankly, won't be able to handle.
Colt McCoy and the Browns offense won't have a complete grasp on the playbook yet, but will be efficient enough to score a decent number of points against a Bengals defense that allowed 314 yards per game last year. Peyton Hillis will continue to bulldoze his opponents with a revamped Browns offensive line, let's just hope he's worked on his fumbles that gave the Browns a great deal of trouble last season.
The bottom line is with such an inexperienced offense, the Bengals won't be able to move the ball well in their first game of the season. The Browns defense will have no problem shutting down Dalton, and the Browns offense will begin to shake off the proverbial "rust."
Prediction: Browns 17 Bengals 3.
Game 2: Browns vs. Colts
After a nice home opener in Cleveland, the Browns are heading on what could be an interesting trip to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts on September 18th.
One of the major story lines in a tumultuous NFL offseason was Peyton Manning's neck surgery, that has kept him away from the practice field along with many other football activities.
No matter what the Browns tried to accomplish, the only person who can slow down Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Lucky enough for the Browns, Peyton won't be Peyton by his second game of the season. His neck still won't be 100 percent healed, and his timing with receivers and other offensive weapons won't be perfect yet either.
Whoever made the Browns schedule could not have picked a better time to play the Indianapolis Colts. The Browns defensive backs will be able to contain an 85 percent Peyton Manning, and 2011 first round draft pick Phil Taylor and the rest of the Browns defensive line should contain Joseph Addai to less than stellar numbers.
As for the Browns offense against a mediocre Colt's defense, well, it may not be an air raid, but I have a feeling Colt McCoy will be able to move the football efficiently.
Prediction: Browns 24, Colts 21
Game 3: Dolphins vs. Browns
The Browns head back home with a 2-0 record after a stunning victory over the Colts, to play the underachieving Miami Dolphins on September 25th.
Last season these two teams met in Miami, with the Browns squeaking out a victory after a Chad Henne red-zone interception. Both teams were evenly matched last season and if it wasn't for Chad Henne's interception problem, the Dolphins could have sealed the deal.
This season's match up could be much the same, but as the Browns' are coming off their victory in Indianapolis in these hypothetical analyses, they have the slight edge over the Dolphins.
The Browns run game, with Peyton Hillis and newly acquired Brandon Jackson, should be able to run the ball pretty well against a Dolphins run defense that let up 100 yards a game last season. In last season's game, Jake Delhomme was able to hit tight end Ben Watson early and often, giving Watson over 100 yards receiving on the day. In this year's edition, McCoy will replicate Delhomme's performance and use TEs Evan Moore and Ben Watson a great deal.
The Browns should be able to beat the Dolphins, who are a bit of a mess at this point.
Prediction: Browns 24, Dolphins 17
Game 4: Titans vs. Browns
The Cleveland Browns Week 4 matchup is a home game against the Tennessee Titans on October 2nd.
The Titans have endured a lot of change during this topsy-turvy offseason as well. Severing ties with former franchise quarterback Vince Young meant that Jeff Fisher was meant to stay... or so Titans fans thought. Months later Fisher was fired, signaling that a new era was at hand. With new Head Coach Mike Munchak at the helm, the Titans drafted Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker with their first round pick and later signed veteran Matt Hasselbeck to a deal. To make things more difficult for the Titans, Chris Johnson continues his hold out into the first week of the preseason, but it will only be a matter of time before his pay day comes.
At this point in the season, Hasselbeck will be leading the Titans offense, and will most likely be comfortable with the playbook and his receivers. There should be little worry that "CJ2K" will be ready to go at this point in the season as well.
The timing of this game could mean bad things for the Browns. The Titans have a great deal of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and at this point when everything is coming together, the Titans could be dangerous. They should be able to run the ball with Chris Johnson efficiently, with a somewhat inexperienced and slow defensive line for the Browns.
The Titans will probably have more success containing Colt McCoy and the pass game with great defensive backs who are covering the average-at-best receivers of the Browns. However, the Browns run game could be lethal, with the Titan's losses of Jason Babin, Kyle Vandenbosch, and Tony Brown on their defensive line.
The Browns will fight until the finish, but the Titans talent may be just too much on this day.
Prediction: Titans 28, Browns 24
Game 5: Browns vs. Raiders
Coming off of a bye week and two straight home games, the Browns head to Oakland to take on the Raiders.
For some reasons in seasons past, the Browns have had trouble with the bottom-dwelling Raiders while in Oakland. They always seem to overlook the Raiders and receive bad losses as the away team.
In a 2009 matchup, (a game which I happened to attend), ex-Cleveland Brown and Akron Zip quarterback, Charlie Frye, returned to Cleveland and had quite a rough outing. Finishing the game with a QB rating of 53, and three picks, Frye lead the Raiders to a 23-9 loss.
Following a 7-9 campaign in 2010, it initially seemed as if the Raiders offseason was heading in the wrong direction. Nnamdi Asomugha signing with the Eagles and Zach Miller leaving the Raiders for his new home in Seattle, left Raiders fans searching for answers. Al Davis' and the Raiders responded nicely. They signed TE Kevin Boss from the Giants, QB Trent Edwards from Buffalo, and G Justin Smiley from Jacksonville, to fill holes of the previous season.
In the 2011 edition of the Browns and Raiders matchup, quarterback Jason Campbell and the Raiders offense will be stagnant as they're lack of offensive weapons is no match for a decent Browns defense. Cornerback Joe Haden will be swarming Oakland speedster Darius Heyward-Bey, and will be swatting passes all over the field.
Colt McCoy, yet to really have a break out game this season, will take a weakened Raiders secondary and dominate, throwing for three touchdowns and over 300 yards.
The Browns will reverse their fortunes and will beat the Raiders pretty handily.
Prediction: Browns 35, Raiders 10
Game 6: Seahawks vs. Browns
The Browns travel all the way back to Cleveland to face the heavily revamped Seattle Seahawks for a Week 7 matchup on October 23rd.
Seattle has had a memorable offseason, improving their roster immensely. The Matt Hasselbeck era came to end, ushering in the Tavaris Jackson era. In addition to Jackson, the Seahawks brought in big names like Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, and Sidney Rice, each of whom really improve a Seahawks team that slid into the Playoffs last season, (much in thanks to Qwest Field and the 12th Man, I might add).
Tavaris Jackson is still a big question mark, and coming into a game vs. the Browns, we don't really know what Tavaris has to offer. The Browns defensive backs can be intimidating, and in late October, the Seahawks may stick to running the ball with Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch. That being said, Sidney Rice does create a huge problem for opposing teams, and could be used well by Pete Carroll and his staff.
The Browns will attack a rather weak Seattle defense, ranked 27th in the league last year, with the West Coast system that relies on a great deal of efficient passing. Peyton Hillis could be a large factor as well as the Seahawks ranked 21st in rush defense last year.
Those same Browns DB's who had played so well in previous games, may face more of a challenge this time around as Tavaris has various weapons to choose from. Thought they shouldn't be too afraid of what Forsett and Lynch have to offer, the Seahawks could make effective use of their backs in this contest.
Although the Browns definitely have the ability to win this game, with such a revamped offense, Seattle may be able to overpower the new 3-4 defense.
Prediction: Seahawks 35, Browns 31
Game 7: Browns vs. 49ers
On the eve of Halloween, October 30th, the Browns will head back out to the Bay Area to take on Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers.
The NFL lockout did a lot of damage to NFL teams with new coaches, including the Browns, and the 49ers were not sparred from that fact.
New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is implementing a new system, a system which Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck is teaching to 49ers players. A system with massive success at the college level, we have yet to see the implications that it will have in the NFL.
By the time this matchup between Cleveland and San Francisco happens, the learning of the new offenses and defenses of each team should no longer be an issue. But to the Cleveland Browns, newly signed 49er, Braylon Edwards, could definitely be an issue. Although Alex Smith has yet to live up to his No. 1 overall potential, he's done enough to earn the trust of his teammates and his coaches, and will be able to deliver the ball to his targets such as Teddy Ginn Jr., Braylon, and Vernon Davis.
The 49ers have an array of weapons on both sides of the ball that could cause the Browns some problems. However, after losing a home game to Seattle, Cleveland will have enough motivation to beat the 49ers.
Prediction: Browns 27, 49ers 24
Game 8: Browns vs. Texans
After a galvanizing win in the Bay Area, the Browns enter a very tough battle in Houston against the Texans on November 6th.
A disappointing 2010 for the Texans could be a great motivation for the 2011 edition in Houston. Quarterback Matt Schuab lead the way for the Texans offense throwing for 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns, but it was running back Arian Foster who took the NFL and Fantasy Teams all over the country by storm. An amazing offensive team, Houston had major defensive issues, ranking last in the NFL in passing defense, and 30th in total defense, the Texans just couldn't stop the other team from scoring. That inability to defend really limited the Texans to their 6-10 record last year.
For as much talent as Houston has on offense, this year should be a bit different for the Texans. They should be an improved defensive team, while remaining dominant on offense. So when the Browns come to town, they better be very well prepared.
The Browns should be able to pass the ball well. Houston is not a team known to be able to defend the pass, and with an efficient passing offense like the Browns should have, the passing game should not be in short supply. The Brown's rush game, however, could be held in check. The Texans were a middle of the road rush defense team last season, with linebacker Brian Cushing leading the way, and should be just as good this season.
All in all the Browns should be able to score points in bunches. But then again, Houston will score too.
Prediction: Texans 45, Browns 35
Game 9: Rams vs. Browns
The Browns come off of a tough one in Texas, and head back home to take on the up and coming St. Louis Rams on November 13th.
The Rams are a team that the Browns should be able to prepare for very well, as their head coach, Shurmur, was a former coordinator for the Rams. Although Josh McDaniels is bringing a different system to St. Louis offensively, Shurmur should know the tendencies of most of the players on offense, especially quarterback Sam Bradford.
The Browns and Rams are both up and coming teams, both with quarterbacks who excelled at the college level, both have stellar running games, and both desperately need wide receivers. However, the Rams were able to muster up a more successful season due to the fact that they play in the weakest division in football, the NFC West.
In this matchup, the defenses will be the key to who wins the game. Both offenses are decent, but whichever defense steps up, will be able to pull this game out.
The Rams run a 4-3 defensive scheme, anchored by linebackers James Laurinitis, who is rising up the ranks in the linebacking world. On the defensive line, Chris Long and James Hall combined for 19 sacks last season, but Browns tackles should be able to handle them enough to give Colt McCoy the time he needs to make plays down the field.
The Browns secondary will come through again, and linebackers Scott Fujita and D'Qwell Jackson should be able to assist both the defensive line and secondary, by getting to Quarterback Sam Bradford.
This game is a tossup. Both teams are pretty evenly matched, so it could definitely go either way. Bradford's ability as a quarterback may give the Rams the slightest of edges.
Prediction: Rams 24, Browns 23.
Game 10: Jaguars vs. Browns
After back to back losses, the Browns continue the home stand against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 20th.
At this point the Browns are 5-4, needing a big win to stay relevant in the ridiculously competitive AFC North. Motivated to succeed, the Browns face a middle of the road Jaguars team who are in the middle of a transition from the David Garrard era into the Blaine Gabbert era.
This should be a very winnable game for the Browns. In last season's matchup, the Browns run game was shut down. Peyton Hillis was the teams leading rusher with only 48 yards on the ground. However, they were able to pass the ball efficiently to Hillis, as he was also the teams leading receiver with 95 yards through the air.
As successful as they were on offense, the Browns were not able to stop Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew as the ran over the Browns for 133 yards and a touchdown. David Garrard threw three picks that the Browns were not able to convert into really any opportunities.
Last season, the Browns were an abysmal away team, but this season with a matchup against Jacksonville in Cleveland, I think the Browns will be able to do enough to squeak one past the Jags. Colt McCoy should be able to replicate his 240 yards passing in last seasons's game, but the majority of the pressure will fall on the shoulders of the Browns rush defense. If the Browns can contain Maurice Jones-Drew to under 100 yards, they should have absolutely no problem winning this game.
With their backs against the wall, the Browns should edge out a victory at home.
Prediction: Browns 27, Jags 21
Game 11: Browns vs. Bengals
After a Week 1 win in Cleveland against these same Bengals, the Browns head to Cincy to try to sweep the season series on November 27th.
The Bengals at this point on offense will be a complete and utter mess. Andy Dalton may no longer be the starting quarterback as he hasn't been able to handle the pressure in his rookie season. However, assuming that he is still the starting QB, the Browns secondary will be able to pick him apart.
Coming off of a big win at home against the Jaguars, the Browns will have enough fight to put away the Bengals, pretty handily.
With a bit of an improved defense for Cincinnati however, the Browns won't be able to move the ball up and down the field the way they would like to. Newly acquired cornerback Nate Clements will be able to shut down Browns receiver Mohammed Massaqoui with relative ease, forcing Colt McCoy to move the ball to his tight ends and running backs. The Browns running game might not be at it's best either. With an array of run defensive weapons including Rey Maualuga and Carlos Dunlap, the ground game may have to really grind to get a great amount of production.
Andy Dalton is going to have a rough day. He may throw between two and four interceptions, and will maybe throw for 150 to 200 yards at the maximum. He's going to have to rely on the Bengals running game to give the offense some life. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor of the Browns, will make sure that rushing attack of the Bengals doesn't have the day it would like to.
A bit of a disappointing day offensively for the Browns, but they get the much needed win they were looking for.
Prediction: Browns 14, Bengals 3
Game 12: Ravens vs. Browns
A season sweep in the Battle of Ohio leads the Browns back to Cleveland to take on the rival Baltimore Ravens on December 4th.
This is where all the hope the Browns had with a 7-4 record at this point late in the season, begins to fade. The schedule makers really got the best of them here.
The Browns take on a Baltimore team who has owned them in previous years. The Ravens are loaded with talent on both ends of the ball. The talent the Browns are searching for, but just haven't been able to find yet. Taking a risk on Delaware Quarterback Joe Flacco, has paid off immensely for the Ravens. He has played very well in his first few seasons as a pro, and his arm strength has become such a weapon for Baltimore through the air. Running back Ray Rice has also been quite a pleasant pick up for the Ravens, marching into the hearts of fantasy football owners all over the country.
The Browns are going to have a tough time slowing down the Ravens, much like they have in seasons past. There's just too much talent for the Browns to stand a legitimate chance in this game. The Ravens defense is loaded with playmakers, from safety Ed Reed to linebacker Ray Lewis, who will no doubt give the Browns very little room to work with. Colt McCoy may have his roughest day of the season thus far, as he hasn't faced a defense like this since last season.
However, Peyton Hillis may be able to grind out 100 yards, thanks to an overachieving Browns offensive line. But one thing is for sure, it will be a very quiet and not so glamorous 100 yards, more based on the fact that the Browns can't do anything through the air.
As much as I hate to say it, the Browns don't stand a chance against Baltimore in this matchup, and the late season collapse is set to begin.
Prediction: Ravens 35, Browns 21
Game 13: Browns vs. Steelers
A tough loss to the Ravens and a short week send the Browns to Pittsburgh in a Thursday night matchup on December 8th.
Again, the schedule makers forced a disaster on the Browns in the latter half of the season. Playing Pittsburgh and Baltimore back to back is difficult enough, but to play Pittsburgh only four nights after the loss to the Ravens is going to be an unsurmountable challenge.
The Steelers are the Steelers. One of the most hate-able teams in the NFL, the Steelers are the team that everyone wants to beat, and yet, not many can.
The Browns always have a tough time dealing with Pittsburgh, because quite honestly, the talent is way too much. Roethlisberger and the high powered Steelers offense will be clicking on all cylinders, especially at this point late in the season, which is disastrous for the Browns.
Colt McCoy was pummeled in the last game of last year's season, suffering a 41-9 loss which was Colt's worst game of the season. James Harrison and the entire Steelers defense used McCoy as a punching bag, thanks in large part to John St. Clair, former Browns right tackle. The Steelers defense continues to be loaded with hard-nosed, and overly aggressive playmakers who will make this game for the Browns, a game they will want to forget. With a very short week to prepare, the Browns will be simply overloaded, and primed for a beat down by the Steelers.
The Browns will be overpowered on both sides of the ball, especially the defensive side of the ball, and won't be able to make this much of a contest.
However, it's not really fair to the Browns that their schedule came to this. But then again, things have never really been fair to the Browns have they?
Prediction: Steelers 35, Browns 10
Game 14: Browns vs. Cardinals
Next, the Browns head out to the desert after a demoralizing loss to the Steelers, to face the Arizona Cardinals on December 18th.
The Cardinals are a team that improved in the offseason, well at least offensively.
Last season was a bit of a lost season for the Cardinals, who had major offensive problems that stemmed from the retirement of QB Kurt Warner. They turned to former Browns Quarterback Derek Anderson, who really couldn't provide them with any answers. After Anderson came Quarterback Max Hall out of BYU, who really did nothing for them, and finally ended with John Skelton out of Fordham in New York City. All three quarterbacks were unable to deliver the ball to the wealth of receivers the Cardinals have, anchored by Larry Fitzgerald who is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. The Cardinals weren't helped by the fact that running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower were not producing to the level they were capable of.
Kevin Kolb should be a great acquisition by the Cardinals. He should be the piece the Cardinals were looking for at Quarterback, as well as the guy they needed to give Fitzgerald the ball.
The Cardinals defense, is quite simply lacking. After trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Eagles for Kolb, the Cardinals secondary could allow for Colt McCoy to have a big game. The Cardinal run defense is a little more stout, but it could be a decent game for Hillis as well.
This game is going to be fun to watch. The Browns should be able to move the ball very well, and Colt McCoy will have the biggest game of the season with 400 yards through the air. However, the Cardinals will be able to participate in the air raid as well, and Kevin Kolb will be able to match Colt McCoy throw for throw.
A late interception by McCoy could spell doom for the Browns, losing a close one to the Cardinals.
Prediction: Cardinals 42, Browns 35
Game 15: Browns vs. Ravens
The Browns head back east to face the Ravens in Baltimore on Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, the Browns won't be receiving a big Christmas gift from the Ravens.
Currently on a three game skid, the Browns will be looking to get back over the .500 mark with a win in Baltimore. Although the division and even the wild card may be out of reach at this point in the season, the Browns would benefit greatly from a win over the Ravens.
A beat-down in the first game in Cleveland will give the Browns the fire to come out and compete in what will be a much closer game. Colt McCoy will have looked at the game film from his last outing and realize exactly what he needs to do to be more efficient this time around. Peyton Hillis will be able to grind out another 100 yard performance, doing it a little more glamorously this time around.
However, the Ravens are still going to be just a bit too much for the Browns. Flacco will be firing on all cylinders, hitting Anquan Boldin with relative ease. Ray Rice and the massive Ravens line will overpower the Browns defensive line and lead to a big game from the Ravens rushing attack.
Down by seven in the fourth quarter, the Browns will fight. They'll be primed and ready to complete the comeback. Colt McCoy will lead them down the field and score a touchdown with four minutes left in the game, which will be sadly too much time for the Ravens offense.
The Ravens will hit a game-winning field goal as time expires, and any hope the Browns had of the postseason will be vanished. The Browns are a scrappy bunch, and they proved that here, but it won't be enough to take down the mighty Ravens.
Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 24
Game 16: Steelers vs. Browns
The Browns head back home from Baltimore to play the rival Steelers on New Year's Day of 2012.
The Browns at 7-8, after starting 7-4, want desperately to beat the Steelers, get back to .500, and give their fans something to cheer about.
This will be the game in which the fans see a Browns team that is inspired and primed for a playoff run in 2012. The pieces will be set. The talent will be there. All they need now is to put everything together.
At this point in the season, The Steelers may not even be playing all of their starters. They will have clinched a playoff berth weeks prior, and will be wanting to rest their players as the playoffs are set to begin. This is just what the doctor ordered for the Cleveland Browns.
They will be able to get to Steelers Quarterback Charlie Batch, early and often, forcing errant throws that lead to an interception or two by cornerback Joe Haden.
Offensively the Browns will be attacking the weakness of the Steelers second team defense and will be moving the ball up and down the field. Greg Little, Browns rookie receivers, will have his biggest game as a Cleveland Brown, scoring a 65-yard touchdown on a pass from McCoy to give the Browns a 14-point lead. Running back Brandon Jackson will also have his first 100 yard rushing game of the season, giving him about 500 yards on the year.
The Browns will win this game, and it may be by more than expected.
Prediction: Browns 28, Steelers 10
Season Recap: Browns Finish 8-8
The early schedule for the Browns will provide them with a fast start. Winning the first three games, they will be the "sexy" team in the NFL. Sports Illustrated will likely have them on the cover after a week three win against the Dolphins, and all will be looking up for Cleveland.
It's the late schedule that really makes for a horrible ending to an otherwise great Browns season. The last five games of the season go as follows: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Baltimore, Pittsburgh. The Browns simply don't have the firepower to win more than one of those games.
An 8-8 season in Cleveland, however, gives Browns fans something to cheer about. 8-8 is not a losing season, something Browns fans are accustomed to at this point. A big win against the Steelers will be the game that gives the Browns the momentum they need heading into the 2012 season, a season in which the Browns will be right in the middle of a playoff run.
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