Browns in must-win vs. Colts?

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
2:00
PM ET
No team should push the panic button after one game. But if you're the Cleveland Browns, your hand is inching closer to it in Week 2.

Is Sunday's game against the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts a must-win for Cleveland? Yes, for a variety of reasons.

Cleveland lost all momentum with an ugly, Week 1 loss at home to the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals. There was excitement this fall about the preseason, a new coaching staff and second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. But all of that was killed after Cleveland fell to 1-12 in season openers since 1999.

The new regime of president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert asked for patience from Browns fans. They passed on big-name free agents that could've helped this season and opted to build long-term through the draft. But the team didn't look any better last weekend than it did during its back-to-back five-win seasons. That's a concern.

I've been saying for months that the Browns are at least two years away. It could be more if the team continues to play at this level. The Browns simply don't have enough game-breaking talent. They have to play mistake-free football every week to have a chance. That's difficult to do.

Week 2 is an important litmus test for Cleveland (0-1). Win, and the Browns get a much-needed split. But if the Browns can't beat the Manning-less Colts and fall to 0-2 Sunday, it's probably time to push the panic button.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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