Though the 2009 Cleveland Browns will ultimately look at a 5-11 season as a disappointment, there has to be some cause for optimism for a lot of reasons. The team closed out the regular season on a four game winning streak, which strangely coincided with a new general manager being named... GM Mike Holmgren. Holmgren decided that HC Eric Mangini had done enough to keep his job for another season, and though he is clearly on the hot seat, Mangini has to feel confident that he can lead this team back towards the playoffs in 2010, though getting there is going to be an incredibly difficult task.
2010 Draft: The Browns probably got left out in the cold just a little bit on NFL Draft day, as there really weren't any fantastic, can't miss options to take at #7. Though Holmgren would have loved to trade back, the opportunities just weren't there. Instead, he selected DB Joe Haden out of Florida, attempting to shore up a secondary that ranked third to last in the NFL last year at 244.7 yards per game. FS TJ Ward will probably immediately step into a starting role as well. RB Montario Hardesty felt like a bit of a reach at the back end of Round 2, but Holmgren and Mangini know that another running back is going to be necessary at some point to spell RB Jerome Harrison at times. The interesting selection was that of QB Colt McCoy in Round 3, as the University of Texas star is going to be the man of the future for this organization.
Offensive Outlook: No one is totally sure who will be quarterbacking this team in 2010, but it certainly won't be either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn. Both men were thrown out of town by Holmgren in a hurry once the season was over, and now, some combination of McCoy, Seneca Wallace, and Jake Delhomme will do the honors. The running game got a real boost at season's end from Harrison, who rushed for a whopping 561 yards and five scores over his L/3 games of the year. Receiving options are few and far between for this team at this point, but Holmgren knows that this isn't the year that the Browns are shooting at and that there are still holes to be filled.
Defensive Outlook: Plenty of those holes are on the defensive side of the ball. Save perhaps DT Shaun Rogers and Haden, there probably aren't too many legitimate defensive stars on Cleveland at this point. The unit allowed a woeful 23.4 points per game last season, which was a number that improved as the season wore on. Allowing 389.3 yards per game isn't acceptable, and Mangini will hope to get more out of his 'D' this year to at least try to keep the team competitive.
2010 Betting Outlook: The Browns found a way to score ten covers a year ago, which tells us that the team was fighting hard even when it was down and out in games. Obviously the four game winning streak at the end of the season was what made the real difference, but the Browns were surprisingly not money burners for the rest of the season. Cleveland may still be vastly underrated this year as a team that isn't expected to make much noise, but a lot of close games should be expected, and covers should come with them.
All Odds for 2010 NFL betting season can be found at BetMania Sportsbook. Cleveland Browns Predictions: 6-10, 4th Place in AFC North 2010 Cleveland Browns Schedule
Cleveland Browns Odds To Win AFC North: +1500
Cleveland Browns Odds To Win AFC: +7000
Cleveland Browns Odds To Win Super Bowl XLV: +22500
Cleveland Browns Regular Season Win Total: 5.5 over -125
Don't confuse the Browns for Super Bowl XLIV contenders, but they are really in a position where this could be the season that acts as the bridge to get them back over the hump. Seven wins is a legitimate possibility with a schedule that features a ton of winnable games. Three of the first five are at home, and a 4-1 start to the campaign is possible. This team should reach this season win total with a couple weeks to spare, but ultimately, challenging for the playoffs is a bit farfetched for Year 1 of the Holmgren era.
Week 1 - Away @ Buccaneers
Week 2 - Home vs. Chiefs
Week 3 - Away @ Ravens
Week 4 - Home vs. Bengals
Week 5 - Home vs. Falcons
Week 6 - Away @ Steelers
Week 7 - Away @ Saints
Week 8 - Bye
Week 9 - Home vs. Patriots
Week 10 - Home vs. Jets
Week 11 - Away @ Jaguars
Week 12 - Home vs. Panthers
Week 13 - Away @ Dolphins
Week 14 - Away @ Bills
Week 15 - Away @ Bengals
Week 16 - Home vs. Ravens
Week 17 - Home vs. Steelers
Cleveland Browns Predictions: 6-10, 4th Place in AFC North
2010 Cleveland Browns Schedule