2018 Cleveland Browns game-by-game predictions

A winless team has nowhere to go but up, so the Cleveland Browns have no choice but to be a better team in 2018. In Tyrod Taylor they have a professional quarterback with experience and will clearly be an improved team with the draft and other offseason additions. But the Browns also have a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback, new running back and new receiver, all of whom must mesh by September. As the Browns have shown in the past, that's a tall order. This will be an improved team, but it won't be a .500 team. Five wins will be a measure of improvement though.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. ET

This is a very tough opener, given the Steelers' overall edge in talent and the way they play the Browns. But if a team is going to dream, it has to dream big. Why not start here? The Browns played the Steelers well twice in 2017 (though one game was against backups), and they will pull out every stop in the universe to win this opener. Cleveland is overdue for an upset win. Win. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET

It's foolish to pick against Drew Brees in a game his team should win. The Saints have been together a long time and know how to win this kind of game. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Thursday, Sept. 20, vs. New York Jets, 8:20 p.m. ET

This game is as good as any to measure how much the Browns have improved. The Jets game was one of the games the Browns easily could have won in 2017. They should be able to pull it out this season. How does a fast start sound? Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. ET

Derek Carr had an off season in 2017. He should bounce back. He's just one of many really good quarterbacks the Browns have to overcome, and can't. Record: 2-2

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m. ET

For whatever reason, the Ravens seem to figure out ways to beat the Browns. They've won six in a row and seven of eight over the Browns going back to 2014. At some point, though, that trend has to end. How does a winning record after five games sound? Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1:00 p.m. ET

Philip Rivers continues the gauntlet of quarterbacks the Browns must run, but the Chargers are beatable even with Rivers. The Browns beat them in Cleveland two years ago, and with better quarterback play could have won on the West Coast last season. The fast start continues. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m. ET

It's tempting to go with the Browns here, but the fast-start bubble has to burst at some point. Jameis Winston on the road will be too much. Record: 4-3

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. ET

The only good thing about this game's location on the schedule is that the league saved the Browns the annual end-of-the-season embarrassment in Pittsburgh. It's too much to expect the Browns to sweep the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh. Record: 4-4

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. ET

This will be an interesting game because the Browns will not have to face an experienced top quarterback. Patrick Mahomes gets the chance to take over in Kansas City. What gives the Chiefs the edge is their overall team speed. Record: 4-5

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m. ET

If Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are healthy, they are too much. The Browns simply do not have a cornerback to cover Jones. Record: 4-6

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18. Bye week.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. ET

Cincinnati has won the last seven games between the two teams entering the 2017 season. The trend continues. Record: 4-7

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m. ET

Deshaun Watson put a hurting on the Browns last season. If he's healthy as he comes back from knee surgery, he'll do the same this season. If Watson does not play, however, the door is open for a win. For this exercise, assume Watson plays. Record: 4-8

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, vs. Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Panthers are coming off an 11-win season and have Cam Newton. The Browns are reeling. Advantage, Carolina. Record: 4-9

Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 15, at Denver Broncos, time to be determined.

The Broncos fell to five wins a year ago for a reason. They are depending on Case Keenum at quarterback. In this matchup, the Browns have the quarterback edge. Record: 5-9

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Bengals have had the Browns' number lately for some reason, and until the Browns change things, it's tough to pick against that trend. Record: 5-10

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m. ET

It took a record-setting day from Josh McCown for the Browns to beat the Ravens in Baltimore in 2015. That's the only win for Cleveland in the last eight games between the teams heading into 2018. Record: 5-11