By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on July 8, 2014
On Sunday I came up with five reasons why the Cleveland Browns will win the AFC North, and it was tough to find optimism for a team with struggles that have been well documented. On the opposite end of the spectrum comes five reasons why the Browns won't win the AFC North; unfortunately for Cleveland fans, there wasn't a whole lot of necessary digging. It could be a long season for the Browns in the AFC North if they continue their recent streak.
In Cleveland, 2014 marks the third head coach in as many years. Although they're professionals, the Browns have had a tough time playing together on the field as a result of the incessant filtering of players on and off the roster. The Browns have a new identity from the front office, to the coaching staff, all the way to the on-field personnel. Camps and the preseason will be crucial for this team if they are to get acquainted with each other.
If there was any glimmer of hope that Browns' Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon would suit up for Cleveland this season, that was dashed with Gordon's most recent arrest. Now without their top receiving target, who will the Browns trust to move the chains in the passing game along with TE Jordan Cameron? Gordon's presence alone drew concerns for opposing defenses — especially those in the AFC North.
NFL teams typically show signs of life at times, even if they don't have a history of winning. The 2001 Cleveland Browns showed some promise when they made the playoffs for the first time since their return and almost pulled off a win against the rival Steelers. Cleveland came close to making it in 2007, but they fell short and became the franchise we see today.
When looking at the teams that belong to the AFC North, along with Cleveland, you see the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers (3 Super Bowls since '05, 2 wins), Baltimore Ravens (2012 Super Bowl winner) and Cincinnati Bengals (won the division last season and made the playoffs 3 years in a row). The division is full of imposing defenses, which have mostly dominated the Browns' futile offenses meaning big on-field changes will need to occur in 2014.
Although the Browns made the playoffs during the 2001 season, they got there by earning a Wild Card slot. Cleveland has finished second in the division standings just twice and finished last 11 times out of 15 seasons. The Browns added many key pieces to the roster that have changed the franchise's outlook, but instant success shouldn't be expected from new head coach Mike Pettine's first season in Cleveland.
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