The Cleveland Browns just won 11 games in a season for the first time since Bill Belichick coached the team.
What will they do for an encore?
After a remarkable 2020 season under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski (which included the franchise’s first playoff win of the millennium), the Browns will look to string together back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since the 1980s.
Once again, quarterback Baker Mayfield will be leading the way under center. Mayfield threw just nine interceptions in 18 starts for the Browns a year ago, and his continued growth and improvement will be key for Cleveland in a difficult AFC North division.
The offensive line will be a strength for the Browns in 2021, anchored by first-team All-Pro Jack Conklin and Pro Bowler Joel Bitonio. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are a dynamic one-two punch in the backfield (they combined for over 1,900 yards on the ground last season), and Mayfield should benefit from an entire season of a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to go along with top returning receiver Jarvis Landry.
Standout defensive end Myles Garrett has tallied double-digit sacks in each of the last three seasons, but he leads a unit that still has room for improvement in 2021. Last season, the Browns allowed more than 26 points per game in the regular season, second-worst among teams that qualified for the playoffs. Cleveland used its first two draft picks this spring on defense, adding cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The 2021 season for Cleveland will begin where the 2020 season ended: Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. The Browns visit the Chiefs on September 12 in a rematch of K.C.’s 22-17 win eight months earlier. Cleveland’s home opener at FirstEnergy Stadium comes the following Sunday against Houston.
The Browns’ first nationally-televised game of the season will be October 21, a Thursday night home tilt with the Broncos. The schedule is back-loaded with AFC North teams, as Cleveland doesn’t play a divisional game until Halloween. The Browns’ visits to Baltimore (Sunday, November 28) and Pittsburgh (Monday, January 3) will both be prime-time showdowns. Other highlights of the schedule include the intrastate rivalry with Cincinnati (November 7 and January 9) and a Christmas Day showcase game against MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
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