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3 things that have to happen for Browns to win AFC North this season

At this point of the NFL year where teams have started back with OTA’s, it’s not necessarily a great thing to try making projections on a season that is still three months away. However, for the Cleveland Browns and their fans, it’s never too early to start making some bold predictions on the season. I’d like to boldly say the Browns are going to win the AFC North Division for the first time in franchise history. But I’d be really going out on a limb if I stick with that take. It’s been 35 years since the Browns won any division. Before, the AFC North, there was the AFC Central Division which the team last won back in 1989.

Obviously, the goal of any NFL team is to win a Super Bowl and that should be the Browns goal too. But one step to get to that elusive goal is to start winning the division more often. Before Cleveland won the division in 1989, they had also won it in 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, and 1987. The team went to three AFC Championship games (’86, ’87, ‘89) in that span too so you can see the correlation between division titles and chances at Super Bowls.

While it’s good to see this franchise have more consistent success over the last several seasons, the team now needs to win divisions, secure home-field advantages, and play like they know they are winners. Here are five things that this team needs to have happen if they are going to be serious contenders for the division crown.

No. 1: Deshaun Watson has to stay healthy

This should go without saying. The Browns went through five starting quarterbacks a year ago and still managed to go 11-6 on the season and made a playoff appearance as a wild-card team. So, having their “many Million(s)” Dollar Man, aka, Deshaun Watson stay healthy for the whole season should be the Browns best way to get that division title.

The problem is that Watson has not played a full NFL season but twice (2018, 2020). He played in 15 games and had a playoff run in 2019. So, I’m not as confident as some Browns fans are that Watson will carry us to a Super Bowl or for that matter a division title. He’s always been dealing with something in his career, which has me worried about this Browns team and Watson at the helm. If he stays healthy, hopefully, my fears will change to cheers.

No. 2: Browns go 4-2 or 5-1 in division play

Last season the Browns went 3-3 in the division and made the playoffs. Back in 2020, the Browns also went 3-3 and managed to get to the playoffs. This team has to go 4-2 or 5-1 against their divisional foes this season if they want to have any chance at winning the crown. When you look at their schedule that may be a difficult task. They play their first two divisional games on back-to-back home weekends in late October against the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. If they can win both these games, they will be in great shape for the latter part of the season schedule.

They play the Steelers in Week 12 and Week 14 in late November and early December. Then they have to go on the road to Cincy (Week 16) and Baltimore (Week 18) to close out the season. So having four divisional games between Week 12 and 18 will be a tough road for the Browns but if they can split those games after winning those first two divisional games from back in October then they could be on their way to a title.

No. 3: The ball needs to bounce the Browns way (A little luck!)

Miracles do happen (on occasion), and the Browns are going to need that or a little luck to win the divisional crown in 2024. At some point, these curses on this franchise have to be lifted? Right?

But in all seriousness, the ball needs to bounce a few times in Cleveland’s favor for this team to get the divisional title and go to and win the Super Bowl.

The Bengals weren’t themselves last season when their quarterback Joe Burrow went down with an injury. Cincinnati is a bit of a mess with the variety of personalities on the team and maybe things continue to go south for the Bengals this season.

The Ravens are often projected to win titles and maybe they do again this year, but they too have many issues including their quarterback Lamar Jackson who usually cracks under pressure in big moments on the field.

The Steelers hopefully will continue to be a soapbox when quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields battle it out off the field and on social media and distract their team from winning enough games to win the crown. I’m banking on Russell Wilson being that selfish player he always has been and making Steelers fans wish they hadn’t brought him onto the team to begin with.

In the end, this 2024 Browns team will need to win games and play like they are the better team on any given Sunday. If they do, then just maybe that AFC North crown will be theirs.


John Suchan is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan. He grew to love the Kardiac Kids back in the day so his loyalty is strong like yours. John has written for several Cleveland sports websites including Dawg Pound Daily, King James Gospel and Cleveland Sports Talk. He currently produces the Fanatical Elfz Network, part of Fans First Sports Network that cover the Browns. John also hosts his own show the Johnny Cleveland Podcast. He looks forward to providing you quality coverage of the Browns with a bit of opinion mixed in.

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