Cleveland Browns 2009: An Early Look at This Season

Christian HeinleinContributor IApril 15, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 28: Heath Miller #83 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball as he is tackled by Nick Sorensen of the Cleveland Browns on December 28, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Is it to early to already look at the 2009 season and key games? No, I don't think so. 
The Roster is not set, the depth chart is...well non existent, but let's go a head and run through the games that could/and will turn the fans on Cleveland's Organization if they don't win regardless of the outcome of the season.

So here we go Browns fans:

Week One, Sept. 13: Home against the Minnesota Vikings

This game is going to be a huge match up to see what the offseason brings to our run defense...One of the premier young running backs against a perennial worst rank run defense.

Key matchups: Adrian Peterson against Cleveland's front seven...Specifically Andra Davis's replacement and Willie McG’s replacement

Why is this game so big:  First game of the year.... Cleveland has a 1-9 record over the past decade on opening day, all at home.. It really is going to set the tone for the season and hopefully, a level of consistency so we know what to expect.

Offensive showing?: Whom ever is starting at QB, should be able to have a field day, but the real Offence is going to come down to ball control and if Cleveland's running game can improve. For a rebuilding year, it is all about starting with the fundamentals, and getting Jamal Lewis/Jerome Harrison off to a good start, might help open up our limited passing game. 

Week Four, Oct. 4: Home against the Cincinnati Bengals

Yes, some might argue that Week Three against Baltimore is more important, but when it comes down to the bottom two teams in the AFC North, the team 180 miles south down I-71  is going to carry more weight as to the improvement step this Cleveland Browns team is showing.

Key matchups: Based upon Cleveland's performance against Adrian Peterson and Willis McGahee will dictate if Cedric Benson is running all over Cleveland.. But make no doubt; a healthy Carson Palmer is going to test our secondary.

Blown coverage’s like we saw last year, will no doubt, be the demise as Palmer has already shown an ability to pass for 400+ yards against Cleveland.

Why is this game so important: This is a matchup of two of the worst teams in the AFC North over the past decade. And they have played each other very well over the past 10 seasons.

Who ever loses, will most definitely have bragging rights over the better draft pick positions during the past 10 years.

Offensive showing?: Cleveland and Cincinnati have produced two of the top ten scoring games in the history of the NFL, within the past four seasons. If Brady Quinn is the starting QB for the Browns, this will be the game that could define his skills as a starting QB in the NFL.

Week 14, Dec. 10: Home against the Pittsburgh Steelers

I really think it is too much to ask for the 2009 Cleveland Browns to win in Pittsburgh. The way this "rivalry" has gone over the past nine years is like this: Cleveland keeps one game close, lose and the other Cleveland gets blown out.

Key Matchups:  Mike Tomlin vs. Eric Mangini, Ben Roethlisberger vs. the Cleveland Browns. Ok I have two big match ups here. The coaching...Tomlin "chuckled" when questioned about the "Browns/Steelers" rivalry. And for good reason.

Pittsburgh has destroyed Cleveland at least one game every season since the Browns returned to the NFL. "Big" Ben has found away to beat Cleveland every single game he has started. Even when he didn't play the greatest game, he found a way to pull it out (e.g. '07 season, 40-yard run to virtually win the game for Pittsburgh).

Offensive showing?: The one hope for Cleveland here, is that there is some sort of identity and consistency for Cleveland by Week 14.

Regardless of what Cleveland's record is here at this point, I think the most important thing to look at is how consistent this team is playing and weather or not there is dissension among the ranks within the players and the Coaching staff. 

Romeo Crennel was very much involved in the players "feelings" and person stuff. Believe me, that is not a bad thing...Mangini seems to be more interested in team work, which isn't bad either...

But there has to be a happy Medium between the two coaching styles and "I" hope Mangini is able to remove that stigma of being to hard of a coach, but not resorting to the style of Romeo Crennel.

Overall thoughts on the season:  I do not think six wins are out of reach for this ball club. Honestly, looking at the schedule and having some level of optimism, an 8-8 season is plausible.

But a realistic approach, is going to be a 6-10 finish for the Browns, with wins against: Minnesota, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Detroit, Baltimore (Joe Flacco being the game changer, if he doesn't go into the "sophomore" slump Baltimore wins both) and Oakland.

Possible Wins: Jacksonville, Kansas City and Green Bay.

I am sure more will change come draft time, and we can see what Cleveland really has. Let me know what you think. This is my first article on the bleacher report.


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