COMMENTARY | Time to pull out the old crystal ball again.
With the start of the NFL regular season a week away, predictions of how 2013 will pan out for teams and individual players are seemingly everywhere. The Cleveland Browns, of course, are no exception. After finishing 5-11 in 2012, the Browns should show improvement in 2013 with a new coaching staff in place.
These are my predictions for how the Browns will fare each week this fall:
Week 1, Sept. 8: Miami Dolphins at Browns: In the season opener between two teams hoping for breakout seasons in 2013, the Browns' defense is too much for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' offense. Despite two Brandon Weeden interceptions, Cleveland wins on a late field goal.
Week 2, Sept. 15: Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Sporting a 1-0 record for the first time since 2004, the Browns head to Baltimore full of confidence. Unfortunately, on this day, the Ravens' offensive trio of Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith pick apart Cleveland's defense as Baltimore wins by 10.
Week 3, Sept. 22: Browns at Minnesota Vikings: A constant dose of Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's defense, and the Metrodome crowd spell doom for the Browns in this game from the opening whistle. Three Minnesota turnovers keep this game close, but the Vikings still win by nine.
Week 4, Sept. 29: Cincinnati Bengals at Browns: After the rough road trip, this home tilt with the Bengals is a must-win game for the Browns. And win they do, as Trent Richardson goes for more than 100 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. The Browns' defense does just enough to slow down Cincinnati's offense as Cleveland wins by a touchdown in a high-scoring affair.
Week 5, Oct. 3: Buffalo Bills at Browns: In this nationally televised Thursday night affair, the Browns avenge a disappointing home loss to the Bills in 2012. Josh Gordon goes over 100 yards receiving for the first time in 2013, and the Browns win by 13.
Week 6, Oct. 13: Detroit Lions at Browns: Weeden and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford each pass for more than 300 yards in a shootout between these two perennial cellar-dwellers. Tied after regulation, the Browns score a touchdown on their first possession in overtime and win by six.
Week 7, Oct. 20: Browns at Green Bay Packers: Riding high on a three-game winning streak, the Browns come crashing back down to earth at Lambeau Field. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers picks apart Cleveland's secondary for three touchdowns, as Green Bay coasts to a 17-point victory.
Week 8, Oct. 27: Browns at Kansas City Chiefs: A nail-biting affair throughout is decided on a last-second field goal by Kansas City's Ryan Succop. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles rumbles for 150 yards and two touchdowns, as Kansas City wins by two.
Week 9, Nov. 3: Ravens at Browns: Once again, the Browns cannot find a way to beat the Ravens. A strong defensive effort and a balanced offensive attack lifts Baltimore to its 12th straight win over Cleveland. Weeden's three interceptions has some wondering if he is truly the answer at quarterback for the Browns.
Week 10, Nov. 17: Browns at Bengals: Coming off their bye week, the Browns look to sweep their intrastate rivals. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Cleveland's offense, the Bengals are just too much for the Browns to handle on this day. Andy Dalton's three touchdowns lead Cincinnati to a four-point win.
Week 11, Nov. 24: Pittsburgh Steelers at Browns: Now in a complete free-fall having lost four in a row, the Browns face bitter rival Pittsburgh at home. The game is a ragged affair, but Cleveland manages to force three Pittsburgh turnovers and do just enough offensively to win by four.
Week 12, Dec. 1: Jacksonville Jaguars at Browns: The Browns exploit Jacksonville's weaknesses on both sides of the football in their most convincing victory of 2013. Richardson rumbles for a career high 160 rushing yards, as Cleveland rolls to a 24-point win to get back to .500.
Week 13, Dec. 8: Browns at New England Patriots: Weeden's 300-yard passing day goes for naught against the Patriots, who score at will against Cleveland's outmatched defense. The Browns score a late touchdown to make it close, but New England still wins by seven.
Week 14, Dec. 15: Chicago Bears at Browns: Cleveland's defense picks off Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler three times. Unfortunately, the Browns' offense fails to capitalize, and Cleveland loses by a touchdown on a cold, windy day at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Week 15, Dec. 22: Officially eliminated from playoff contention, the Browns take out their aggression on a hapless Jets squad in a big way. Richardson goes over 100 yards in the first half alone, and Cleveland's defense allows less than 200 yards to New York, as they win by 17.
Week 16, Dec. 29: Browns at Steelers: The Browns head to Heinz Field hoping to sweep the Steelers for the first time in 25 years, and record their first non-losing season since 2007. Sadly, 2013 will not be the year either of those two streaks end. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws for two touchdowns, as Pittsburgh squeaks out a two-point win.
Final 2013 record: 7-9
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for 25 years.
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