By: Tim Whelan
Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us, as a season of hope is upon the Cleveland Browns. The Browns will face the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the season opener. Currently the Steelers are a -9.5 favorite.
The Browns are currently in the middle of a full on rebuild. With many new faces on the team once again, the Browns are the youngest team in the NFL. It will be no easy task for them to face a more veteran Steelers team.
For example, the Browns will be sending out former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer will be making his official NFL Debut for the Browns, making him the 27th quarterback since 1999. The Browns are hoping that this will be the one for the next 15 years.
The Steelers are the exact opposite when it comes to the quarterback position. “Big” Ben Roethlisberger will be the starter. Roethlisberger will be entering his 14th season as quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Another headliner for this game is the impact running back Le’Veon Bell will have. Bell was a part of a long hold-out with the Steelers front office due to contract talks.
“I expect to see him every play,” head coach for the Browns Hue Jackson said. “He is a good football player. I think we know that. He is very talented, and I’m sure he is ready to go. He will show up and play, but we will be there. We are going to play, too. That is the way of football.”
3 keys to a Browns victory:
1. Defense: The Browns will have the new Gregg Williams defense at full force on Sunday. Expect a lot of exotic blitz and zone defense, but aggressiveness all around. If the Browns can manage to contain Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown, they’ll have a great shot at winning this game.
2. DeShone Kizer and the wide receivers: With a rookie at the helm, it’s important for Hue Jackson to put Kizer in a position to succeed. Press the ball down the field, work the flats, check downs, and even simply avoiding a sack and throwing the ball away. With a revamped wide receiver corps, chemistry may be an issue early for Kizer. But, if he can get help from players like Corey Coleman, Kenny Britt, or Sammie Coates, this can go a really long way for the Browns and DeShone Kizer.
3. Running game: Hue Jackson emphasized the importance of the running game last season, but still seemed to stick to the passing game all last year moreso than fans originally thought. Will this year be different? I say yes. Not only will the Browns have Isiah Crowell handling most of the carries, they will also have a healthy Duke Johnson, and potential future three-down back rookie Matthew Dayes in the backfield on Sunday.
The Browns are 1-19 in season openers since the return in 1999. You could say the odds are not in the Browns favor. Neither is history. The Browns look to end a 12 slide in season openers, but having to do so facing the Pittsburgh Steelers? This will be a very tall task for the Browns.