The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a winning season in over a decade. They haven’t been to the playoffs in even longer, since the beginning of the AFC North. Nevertheless, arguably the team’s most iconic player since its return to the league in 1999 believes that they are in for perhaps their best season in that two-decade span.
Just in time for his retirement, of course. Joe Thomas is who I’m talking about, their long-time left tackle who will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible in four more years. He has already reformed his body, looking more like a tight end these days, and is also trying his hand as an analyst.
Yesterday, Thomas predicted that the Browns would go 10-6 and returning to the postseason for the first time in a very long time. He did not outright state that they would win the AFC North, though based on last season, that record would figure to be good enough to do so.
Its officially Schedule Prediction Season @joethomas73 🎉
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) May 8, 2019
Within his game-by-game schedule breakdown, he had Cleveland splitting their two games with the Pittsburgh Steelers, winning a Thursday game at home but failing to repeat the result two weeks later at Heinz Field. But it would also be the last game they lose.
Thomas predicts that the Browns will start strong and finish strong with a slump in the middle, and the schedule does make that pretty plausible. In the first four games, he believes they will beat the Titans, Jets, and Ravens, but fall to the Rams, who are the defending NFC champions.
Things get ugly from there, riding a three-game losing streak with losses to the 49ers, Seahawks, and Patriots. This certainly looks to be the most difficult stretch of their schedule on paper, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this result turn up.
The Steelers are in the next stretch of games, following a projected win over the Broncos and then a loss to the Bills. They come back to beat Pittsburgh and Miami before losing to the Steelers a week later. At that point, they are 6-6 and everybody is probably gnashing their teeth questioning everything.
But they ride a four-game winning streak to end the season to make it into the playoffs, beating the Bengals twice in that span and the Ravens once, with the Cardinals mixed in.
You might have noticed that Thomas predicts the Browns will go 5-1 in the AFC North, which is pretty bold considering that they literally never have in their history. In fact, they have had losing records within the division almost every year.
But this is the ‘new’ Browns, of course (and one that would love to have Thomas back at left tackle protecting Baker Mayfield). The truth is that his predictions are far from reasonable. But this group still has a lot to prove. They can’t ride half a season going 5-3 into the promised land.