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AFC Super Bowl 58 Rankings: Chiefs Reign at the Top Continues

Following Week 12, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs continue to lead the way in the AFC Super Bowl 58 rankings. Just like where they have been all season, the Chiefs have yet to...

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Cleveland Browns Stats, Odds, Standings, Schedule, 2023 NFL Season

Cleveland Browns’ Last Season Performance

The Cleveland Browns’ 2022 offseason was headlined by the acquisition of quarterback Deshaun Watson. This signaled the Browns’ intention to win now, as they looked to secure a franchise QB. However, Watson was dealing with off-the-field issues, leading to an 11-game suspension.

Watson did not return until Week 13, making a postseason appearance unlikely. The Browns finished 7-10 and last in the AFC North.

The defense severely underachieved, which led to the firing of defensive coordinator Al Woods. Overall, the 2022 season went about as expected. Few had high expectations for Cleveland with Watson out for most of the season. The upcoming 2023 season is a different story. The stakes are raised with playoff expectations. Ahead of the season, NFL odds have a postseason appearance at +110 and no playoffs at -140. As the lines suggest, the Browns are viewed as a fringe playoff team.

Cleveland Browns Key Additions

Cleveland made significant upgrades on the defensive line. It traded for edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, who recorded 10 sacks last season. The interior defensive line was upgraded with the additions of defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson, Maurice Hurst and third-round pick Siaki Ika.

Safety Juan Thornhill signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Browns. He was a quality starter with the Kansas City Chiefs and should help solidify Cleveland’s secondary. The receiving unit could also improve with the additions of Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin.

The Browns had few draft picks for the 2023 NFL Draft. Wide receiver Cedric Tillman is one of the rookies that could contribute, along with Ika at defensive tackle.

Cleveland Browns Key Departures

It seems Cleveland has elected to not re-sign safety John Johnson III, edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and running back Kareem Hunt. All three players remain free agents. Johnson was disappointing in the 2022 season, and Clowney caused some off-the-field problems. The Browns also have good running back depth to replace Hunt.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett signed with the Washington Commanders and defensive tackle Taven Bryan joined the Indianapolis Colts. Cleveland replaced Brissett with the signing of Joshua Dobbs and by drafting fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Bryan was mediocre last season. The Browns made clear upgrades at defensive tackle.

Cleveland Browns Head Coach Analysis

This could be a make-or-break season for head coach Kevin Stefanski. He was feeling the pressure entering the 2022 season, but Watson’s suspension bought him time. Now, the playoff expectations are real. If Cleveland disappoints, Stefanski could be out. The franchise has shown it wants to win now.

Stefanski’s offense has regularly received criticism during his tenure. At times, he has elected to not use running back Nick Chubb enough. Sometimes Stefanski has been too passive with an underwhelming passing game. During the offseason, Stefanski said he plans to adjust the offense to support Watson’s skillset.

Stefanski’s move to hire Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator was a good decision. Schwartz has 19 years of experience as a defensive coordinator. He also led some impressive units with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the 2017 team that won Super Bowl 52.

Cleveland Browns Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season

Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (quad) and return specialist Jakeem Grant Sr. (Achilles) come off season-ending injuries. Grant is expected to be ready for training camp, and Walker should be healthy by Week 1.

Right tackle Jack Conklin battled various injuries during the 2022 season, including a torn right patella tendon that ended his season in Week 12. Conklin is fully healthy with training camp beginning. Overall, the roster is looking healthy ahead of the 2023 season.

Infographic NFL Browns
Infographic NFL Browns

Cleveland Browns Offense

This is the unit that could raise the Browns to greater heights. Several futures for Cleveland will be interesting NFL predictions, including its projected win total of 9½ and chances of making the postseason.

Watson will be in the spotlight during the 2023 season. After returning from suspension, Watson looked like a shell of himself. He no longer performed like a borderline top-five quarterback. Instead, he was mediocre and even bad at times.

After a full offseason, this could be the season when Watson returns to form. There will be a lot of pressure on Watson. If he cannot perform, Cleveland could begin to question his future as the franchise QB. The Browns are hoping for a superstar quarterback that can lead them to success in the playoffs.

Watson should be surrounded by a sufficient core. The offensive line should return to being one of the league’s best with a clean bill of health. The wide receiving corps was upgraded with the additions of Moore, Tillman and Goodwin.

Chubb remains the best pure runner among tailbacks. His workload could increase if Hunt does not re-sign with the Browns. The run game should still excel; backup running back Jerome Ford has generated positive reviews.

Cleveland Browns Defense

The defense finished 25th in allowed rushing yards per game last season. Schwartz was hired to directly address this weakness. His defenses typically have strong defensive tackle play that plugs opposing run games. Cleveland had perhaps the worst defensive tackle group in the league last season. That’s no longer the case after signing Tomlinson and drafting Ika. Tomlinson has been one of the NFL’s best run-stuffing tackles for several seasons.

Cleveland also finished 27th in team sacks. This is inexcusable for a unit that has defensive end Myles Garrett, who is one of the sportsbook’s favorites for Defensive Player of the Year. Garrett has posted 16 sacks in back-to-back seasons. His numbers could increase after the Browns upgraded the defensive end position.

The linebacker group is still underwhelming. However, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK) has high potential. Cleveland needs JOK to break out following an up-and-down 2022 season.

The secondary has several concerns, including safety and the perimeter cornerback spot opposite of Denzel Ward. Thornhill should help improve safety play. Third-year cornerback Greg Newsome II is expected to fill the starting spot opposite of Ward. Newsome thrived in the role during his rookie campaign in 2021. The Browns made a questionable decision to play Newsome in the slot last season.

Cleveland Browns Special Teams

Cleveland signed one of the NFL’s best return specialists last offseason, but Grant suffered a torn Achilles before the season kicked off. He is fully healthy ahead of the 2023 season. This should be a big boost for the Browns, who finished 14th in yards per kickoff return last season.

Kicking could be a problem, as Cade York struggled in his rookie season. He converted 75% of his field goal attempts, which finished in the bottom 10. Corey Bojorquez excelled at 48.5 yards per punt in the 2022 season, which ranked seventh.

Cleveland Browns Prediction for the 2023 Season

The Browns making the playoffs is a realistic sport bet. However, this will be a tall task in the loaded AFC. Per Las Vegas NFL odds, Cleveland is the third choice to win the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are the favorites.

To make the playoffs, the Browns could need double-digit wins. Watson has drawn rave reviews throughout the offseason. If he returns to form, Cleveland will be dangerous. Watson has the potential to perform at an MVP level. If that happens, we could be looking at a contender.

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, though. There are a lot of ifs involved for the Browns to become a contender. However, making the postseason is a realistic goal Cleveland can achieve.

Cleveland Browns Final Thoughts

We could learn a lot about the Browns’ future in the 2023 season. Stefanski is entering a make-or-break season. This is Watson’s first chance to show he can make Cleveland an annual playoff squad.

Watson’s play and the secondary could be the biggest keys of the 2023 season. We do not know if Watson can return to star status, but he has the pieces to achieve the goal. The secondary also has some potential weaknesses. If the Browns have good pass coverage, this should be an impressive defense with Garrett leading the pass rush.

Cleveland Browns FAQs

Will Kevin Stefanski have a job next season?

Kevin Stefanski is entering a make-or-break season. If the Browns disappoint, Stefanski is probably out as head coach. If he wants it Stefanski could certainly get a job on an offensive staff.

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Can Deshaun Watson lead the Browns to the playoffs?

Cleveland is a fringe playoff team entering the 2023 season. It could depend on Deshaun Watson’s play. He has excelled throughout the offseason, suggesting he can lead the Browns to the postseason.

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How many rushing yards will Nick Chubb have this season?

Nick Chubb posted a career-high 1,525 rushing yards in the 2022 season. He remains the best pure runner in football. Chubb could finish in the 1,500-yard ballpark once again, as Cleveland elected to not re-sign Kareem Hunt.

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Can the Cleveland Browns earn a spot in the playoffs via wild card? When was the last time the New York Jets were in the playoffs?

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The Bengals and Ravens are a step above the Browns, meaning Cleveland will probably fall short of winning the AFC North. That means Cleveland would need to earn a wild-card spot fo the playoffs. The Browns are capable with a solid roster on paper. They will need an improved defense and Watson to return to form.