Thursday, January 28, 2021

Why the Cleveland Browns will struggle in the playoffs

The Cleveland Browns look set to make their first NFL post season run for the first time in 18 years, with their last appearance in 2002. It’s been a long time coming for maybe the most frustrated fan base in the NFL, especially following what was a disappointing and frankly, lacklustre campaign last year.

But if you think the Browns are anywhere near a Super Bowl, then I would seriously reconsider. Although we stand at 9 – 3, even beating the Ravens in the AFC North, it is still a big ask for the Browns to go the distance and lift the Lombardi Trophy. As a Browns fan, I just don’t think they have what it takes – yet.

Although the Browns have come a long way since their 0-16 season, it cannot be forgotten that the franchise is still in re-build mode. The team still has glaring weaknesses all over the field, especially at Linebacker and in the secondary. Ok, Grant Delpit was ruled out at training camp, which was a huge blow for the Browns, but after letting Joe Schoebert go to the Jags in free agency, it seems they haven’t done enough to plug that gap.

Nick Chubb has been the Cleveland Browns best offensive player by far this season
Nick Chubb has been the Cleveland Browns best offensive player by far this season

Nick Chubb is the Cleveland Browns best player

I have watched every game this year, and one thing I have noticed is that our defence is soft – too soft to really achieve anything in the playoffs. Just look at our game against the Jags last Sunday. Baker Mayfield stepped up and played one of his best games this season, however, the defence allowed our lead to slip in the second half. It was a nail biter, but for all the wrong reasons.

That being said, the problems on the field are not solely down to the defence. Baker Mayfield needs to strike up more chemistry with his receivers to move the ball down field instead of relying on the run game. Nick Chubb is doing a stellar job of moving the chains down field, however, opposing defences are now starting to strangle the running back, effectively cutting off our greatest weapon.

The Cleveland Browns gave up a lot to land Odell Beckham Jr, but it seems like it’s a rocky relationship at best. If Mayfield and Beckham can build a rapport with each other, then it really opens up our offensive playbook which can keep the other team guessing. Trust me, I rate Mayfield and believe he is every inch the leader that the Browns need, but he needs to translate that on the field and prove his critics wrong.

The other factor that cannot be ignored is the fact the Browns seem to choke against a ‘good’ team. Picking up wins against the Bengals and The Colts is all well and good, but we got stomped by the Ravens and Steelers this season. Although we are now beating the Ravens in the league, the Steelers lost to Washington. However, we couldn’t get more than 7 points on the board.

It feels like the Cleveland Browns choke against high calibre teams, like they are just ready to roll over and loose graciously. If your going to succeed in the playoffs, then you need to be able to go toe-to-toe with these teams and win. They have had a pretty easy schedule this year, with many of the teams they have played now either in rebuild mode or have lost their star players in free agency.

The Cleveland Browns need to continue to rebuild
The Cleveland Browns need to continue to rebuild

To put it bluntly, the 2020 season is not going to be the Browns year to lift the Lombardi Trophy. With heavyweight such as Kansas City and the New Orleans Saints still dominating the league, other teams such as the Buffalo Bills are in a better position to de-throne the champs this year. But the question is, can anyone stop the Chiefs from becoming the next football dynasty?

If the Cleveland Browns draft well and utilise the free agency just as well as they did last year, then maybe in a couple of years time, the Browns will become the next serious contender. Kevin Stefanski has done an outstanding job in shrugging off the disappointments of last year and starting a fresh with, what has the potential to be, a Super Bowl winning roster.

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