CLEVELAND — There is no shortage of optimism surrounding the Cleveland Browns after quarterback Baker Mayfield emerged as a leader for the franchise in 2018 and general manager John Dorsey traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on the first day of the new league year in March.
And while Dorsey, Mayfield and coach Freddie Kitchens have tried to temper expectations for a team that finished 7-8-1 and in third place in the AFC North Division in 2018, former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas shared in the optimism when he played the 2019 schedule game on NFL Total Access on NFL Network.
“They are going to finish 10-6, and that’ll bring them to the playoffs for the first time since 2002,” Thomas proclaimed at the end of his two-minute review of the Browns’ schedule.
Currently, the Browns have the longest active playoff drought in the National Football League at 16 seasons.
Thomas predicted the Browns will open 2019 by doing something they have not been able to accomplish since 1993, and that is win the first two games of the regular season. Thomas believes the Browns will open with a win over the Tennessee Titans at home, and then, on their first prime-time game of the season, will secure a road victory against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Although Thomas is optimistic about the Browns, he believes there will be a tough stretch over late September and early October.
Thomas has the Browns losing four games in a six-week stretch, starting with a setback against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football in Week 3 and continuing with a Monday Night Football loss to the San Francisco 49ers (Week 5). Then, Thomas has the Browns losing the Seattle Seahawks (Week 6) and New England Patriots (Week 8) around the bye week.
At 4-4 at the midway point of the schedule, Thomas has the Browns surging over the second half of the season.
Thomas believes the Browns will get things going in a positive direction at the Denver Broncos in Week 9, and bounce back from a trap-game loss to the Buffalo Bills at home with a victory over their chief AFC North Division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Cleveland on Thursday Night Football on November 14.
After losing the return match against the Steelers in Week 13, Thomas believes the Browns will end the 2019 season on a four-game winning streak, including three AFC North Division victories.
The Browns end the year by hosting the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 14) and the Baltimore Ravens (Week 16) and visiting the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) before wrapping up the regular season against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on December 29.