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The Cleveland Browns plan to have a special season in 2021 with Super Bowl aspirations.
Those aspirations are built on a very good 2020 season, the development of Baker Mayfield, the culture created by Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry and the influx of talent this offseason. Those aspirations are both high and realistic at the same time.
For the first time in 2021, the NFL schedule also includes a 17 game regular season. Unless the Browns are able to get the coveted bye week in the playoffs, a possibility but tough to assume with only one bye per conference, they will need to play 21 games, plus three preseason games, to achieve their goal.
For most of the Browns players, the 18 games played in 2020 was the longest season of football they have ever played in their life. Adding three more games of hitting, blocking, running, twisting, tackling, etc is a lot more wear on a body.
Even more so is this true for rookies or first-year players whose college careers included between 10 and 14 games, at most. Due to injuries and COVID-19 related limitations, Greg Newsome II has never played in more than 8 games in a season. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played in 13 games, in 2019, but never more than that.
The NBA playoffs are a great example of the importance of depth as a season wears on. Many of the top stars missed playoff games or were significantly limited after their long season.
The NFL, a much more physical game, adding a 17th game may add to their overall revenue and give fans more games to consume but, like the NBA, it could water down the product due to injuries.
For the Browns, last year’s 18 games was a great starting point of playoff experience for many of their young players. With the additional regular-season game and their goal of making it two games farther in the playoffs, having a good amount of depth across the roster will be vital.
With different goals in mind than they have had in the past and the need for as much quality depth as possible, the Browns may choose to keep a couple of young veterans over developmental prospects in 2021 and beyond. This could make it difficult for players like Demetric Felton and Richard LeCounte III to make the roster.
In 2021, the magic number for the Browns is 21 games and they are going to need all the quality depth they can find to make it through such a long season.