The Cleveland Browns hype train keeps on rolling. CBS is the latest outlet to predict Freddie Kitchens and crew to win the AFC North. Everyone’s favorite reporter Jason La Canfora picked them to edge out the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, writing:
“I’m buying the Browns. Big time. All this talk about juggling personalities and keeping all the receivers fed and happy is a debate for another day. Right now Freddie Kitchens is in a honeymoon phase and I expect this team to be young and hungry and out to make some noise. Love some of the additions to the staff – head-coach-to-be Todd Monken in particular – and the Browns are finally ascending at the right time, with the rest of this division in turmoil or rebuilding or just hiring a baby-faced head coach themselves. Who knows if they will be able to sustain things there, and that ownership group will always give you pause, but I will ride this team in 2019.”
Cleveland is the trendy pick of the year and with good reason. They have their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield. They added Odell Beckham Jr. At running back, Nick Chubb will take over as lead dog and the defense is improving, adding Oliver Vernon to pair with superstar-in-the-making Myles Garrett.
But they have their question marks, too. Chiefly, trying to put all the pieces together. They’ll be led by Kitchens, arguably the right hire for the club, but someone taking the reigns for the first time in his football career. He’ll have to keep the team on solid footing whenever adversity does strike and it will because it’s the NFL and everyone deals with it.
There’s no question the Browns look great on paper. So did the Philadelphia Eagles “dream team.” They started the year 1-4 and finished 8-8, digging themselves too deep a hole as the coaches figured out how to make it all work.
The North will be determined by what happens late in the season. For Pittsburgh, they play four divisional games over the final seven weeks, including a rare three game stretch from Weeks 11-13. Thursday night at Cleveland, at Cincinnati, and them hosting the Browns, followed by a potentially (probably?) crucial Week 17 finale on the road in Baltimore.