The Browns finally broke through in 2020. They rampaged to an 11-5 record during the regular season.
If that wasn’t enough for a suffering franchise, Cleveland blew out nemesis Pittsburgh in a wild card playoff game. They earned this win despite a 7-35-1 record against Pittsburgh since 2000.
Over the past decade, Cleveland adopted an analytics strategy for building the team. They stock piled high draft picks which turned into players like QB Baker Mayfield and DE Miles Garrett. They employ Paul DePodesta, a man famous for his role in Moneyball.
With this solid process, we can expect continued success for Cleveland, right? Not unless you want to be as disappointed as Stephen A. Smith when he gets the ESPN memo to stop shouting. Let me explain.
To understand the problems with Cleveland, let’s first look at the most simple metric: points. Opponents scored 5 more points than Cleveland over the course of last season. A -11 point differential during the regular season suggests an 11 win team played more like an 8 win team.
Baker Mayfield had his best season in 2020, but the numbers do not suggest a superstar that can carry a team to the Super Bowl.
My main metric for evaluating pass offense is based on success rate. Success for the offense means they gain the following fraction of necessary yards for the next first down.
- 50% on 1st down
- 70% on 2nd down
- All on 3rd, 4th down
After adjustments for pass defenses played, Cleveland ranks 16th in passing success rate.
Mayfield rated better by PFF passing grades. By their grading system that uses two analysts to break down every play, Mayfield had a solid passing grade of 85 (out of 100).
However, this made Mayfield the 8th ranked QB by PFF pass grades in 2020. Baker is solid but not threatening Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers as the best in the NFL.
On defense, Cleveland’s pass defense ranked 27th by my adjusted success rate. They have two superstars in edge rusher Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward, but the unit struggled as a whole.
Cleveland did add CB Troy Hill and S John Johnson III, two players who had excellent PFF cover grades with the Rams last season. If these players can continue their stellar play, the pass defense might get above league average.
The markets have a win total of 10.5 for the 17 game schedule for Cleveland. When I take market win totals and back out a rating to get preseason rankings, it implies that Cleveland is the 6th best team in the NFL.
Too many things need to go right for Cleveland to rank that high. Take under 10.5 wins.
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