The Cleveland Browns were one of the most scrutinized teams in the NFL during the 2014 preseason. Everyone wanted to know whether Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel would win the starting quarterback job. For now it appears that Hoyer is the Browns’ man. It’s anyone’s guess how long that lasts. Despite the optimism provided by Manziel, this looks like it could be another long year for Cleveland fans.
The Browns have a very tough opening slate, starting on the road against their division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their first two home games come against a very imposing New Orleans Saints team and a Baltimore Ravens squad that is primed for a bounceback season. It’s very likely Cleveland will enter their early Week 4 bye at 0-3.
If this happens, don’t be surprised to see Mr. Football under center on the road against the Tennessee Titans, though the result of that game doesn’t figure to be any different. The Browns come home to face the Steelers for the second time in just over a month. Don’t expect their home-field advantage to change much. A road game against the pesky Jacksonville Jaguars results in another tough loss. Heading into week 8, 0-6 is a very real possibility for the Browns.
It is at this midpoint of the season where the Browns begin the easiest part of their schedule. Back-to-back home games against the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers result in the first two Cleveland wins of the 2014 season. But after a road game against the defending division champion Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns will sit at 2-7, out of the playoff race by early November.
If Manziel isn’t the starter already, this may be the time he makes his debut. The next three games come against the Houston Texans (home), Atlanta Falcons (road) and Buffalo Bills (r0ad). If it were two home games instead of one, the Browns might be able to go 2-1 in this stretch, but 1-2 seems more likely.
The end of Cleveland’s schedule is just as daunting as the beginning. In four weeks they must face the Indianapolis Colts (home), Cincinnati (home), Carolina Panthers (road) and Baltimore (road). The Browns will be lucky to win one of those games.
The good news for the Browns is that they have talent on their roster. The bad news is that most of that talent is unproven, especially with Josh Gordon’s suspension. This season will be all about when, not if, Manziel makes his debut and how much he is able to improve over the course of the season. Beyond that, there really isn’t much else to say about the Browns.