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NFL Cleveland Browns

5 Reasons Why Cleveland Browns Will Win the AFC North in 2014

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Cleveland Browns: 5 Reasons Why They'll Win the AFC North in 2014

Jimmy Haslam, Mike Pettine
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The 2014 Cleveland Browns will enter into their 16th season since returning to the league in 1999. Unfortunately, the Browns have won their division exactly 0 times and have only made the playoffs once. The AFC North has been one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and this season will be no different. Cleveland will have a tough time winning the division, but here are five reasons why they have a chance.

5. Viable Quarterback Options

Brian Hoyer
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5. Viable Quarterback Options

Brian Hoyer
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The QB position for the Cleveland Browns has been in question since their return to the league. The Browns have started 19 different quarterbacks during that time, but incumbent starter Brian Hoyer showed flashes of being a legitimate quarterback in the NFL. Last year, Hoyer started and won three games in a row before a knee injury. If Hoyer cannot keep up the pace, Johnny Manziel's mobility could be the answer to the sturdy AFC North defenses.

4. Dedication to the Running Game

Ben Tate
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4. Dedication to the Running Game

Ben Tate
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To say the Browns' offense last season was one-dimensional would be an understatement. After trading RB Trent Richardson, the Browns struggled to find anyone to carry the load at RB and relied heavily on the passing game featuring Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. In the offseason, the Browns signed coveted free agent Ben Tate to hopefully carry on the Browns' storied RB tradition. If Tate can stay healthy, watch for him to wear down defenses.

3. The Defensive Secondary

Cleveland Browns secondary
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3. The Defensive Secondary

Cleveland Brows secondary
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Last season, Cleveland started the season ranked among the league's best defenses, but slowly deteriorated as the season went along, largely due to poor secondary play. As a result, new general manager Ray Farmer sought help for Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden in the form of veteran safety Donte Whitner and rookie cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir, which will no longer allow teams to rely solely on throwing to the opposite way of Haden.

2. New Defensive Schemes

Mike Pettine
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2. New Defensive Schemes

Mike Pettine
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Going along with the updates at defensive back is the Browns' new defensive coaching. Defensive-minded head coach Mike Pettine brought along his former Buffalo assistant Jim O'Neil to coordinate the defense. Together, Pettine and O'Neil bring an aggressive style, which should allow the Browns' athletic group of defenders more opportunities to cause opposing AFC North offenses lost yardage and turnovers.

1. The AFC North Will Beat Up on Itself

Browns, Steelers
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1. The AFC North Will Beat Up on Itself

Browns, Steelers
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The Browns are a long shot to win the division, but crazier things have happened pertaining to the AFC North. If the Browns can stay healthy in a division that features three top defenses in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati, then they'll have a chance. Although it doesn't occur often, it's possible these teams beat up on each other and the winner of the division could end up with a lower win total — 10 or 11 games — helping out Cleveland.