NFL Nation: 2012 NFL Preview

By now, you already know the Atlanta Falcons aren’t predicted to come in fourth, third or second place in the NFC South. They will win the division, according to the consensus of’s panel of experts.

Here’s the link to the Falcons’ preview page, and you’ll see there the panel was split in its thoughts on the Falcons. I had them finishing second and Adam Schefter ranked Atlanta third, but that wasn’t enough to pull the Falcons out of the top spot because every other panelist had them finishing first.

Here’s what I wrote about the Falcons:

Five things you need to know about the Falcons:

1. An all-new look: Although the Falcons have had four straight winning seasons, they are kind of starting over on offense and defense. They've got new coordinators in Dirk Koetter (offense) and Mike Nolan (defense), and it's clear there is a lot of pressure on the Falcons to win a playoff game for the first time since coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan arrived in town. With players such as Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers, Ryan has plenty of weapons. It's Koetter's job to figure out how to get more explosive plays out of this offense than predecessor Mike Mularkey. It's a similar story on defense, where Nolan inherits quite a bit of individual talent, but he needs this unit to establish a more aggressive identity than it had under Brian VanGorder.

2. The under-300 club: The Falcons repeatedly have said they want to limit Turner's carries and keep him fresh throughout the season. But that doesn't mean the Falcons suddenly will abandon the running game or Turner. You can bet Turner isn't going to get anywhere close to the 376 carries he had in 2008, but I still see him getting somewhere between 230 and 250 carries. The Falcons might throw the ball a little more often than in the past. But the difference will be made up by Rodgers. He didn't play a lot as a rookie, but the Falcons have big plans for him this season. He can do some things in the passing game that Turner can't, but Rodgers also is going to get some runs between the tackles.

3. It's all on the line: A lot of people talk about the pressure on Ryan and Smith. But I think the real pressure is on the offensive line. That unit was perhaps the most disappointing group last season. Ryan didn't throw the deep ball as much as the Falcons wanted, almost entirely because the offensive line couldn't protect him long enough. Other than bringing in offensive line coach Pat Hill and drafting Peter Konz, who might or might not start right away, the Falcons didn't have much turnover on the offensive line. The key is left tackle Sam Baker. He lost his starting job last season, but the Falcons say Baker was limited by injuries and is healthy now.

4. Help wanted: For far too long, Atlanta's pass rush has been defensive end John Abraham and not much else. That has to change, because Abraham is 34, and even if he has another good season, the Falcons need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Defensive players have indicated they expect to blitz a lot more in Nolan's scheme. Linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas have enough quickness to be effective pass-rushers, and some members of the secondary will be asked to blitz at times. But the real key will be defensive end Ray Edwards. He didn't produce much after signing as a free agent last year. But as with Baker, the Falcons say Edwards wasn't healthy last season and is now.

5. What's left in the tank? After the Falcons traded for Asante Samuel, there was a report that Philadelphia coach Andy Reid parted with the veteran cornerback because he sensed a steep decline. Samuel has taken exception to that, and the Falcons wouldn't have made the move if their personnel people sensed a serious problem. The Falcons aren't looking for Samuel to be the player he was five years ago. They just want him to be a role player as another strong cover corner to go with Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson.

Our Colts' pick: Fourth place

August, 30, 2012
Four of the five panelists at pick the rebuilding Colts to finish in fourth place in the AFC South.

"Andrew Luck should throw for between 3,500 and 4,000 yards if he stays healthy. Facing five first- or second-year starting quarterbacks gives Luck the chance to have a winning record at home," says John Clayton.

The defense rates as exotic, I write in our Intelligence Report: "In the Tampa 2 put in place by Tony Dungy and run for years by the Colts, there weren't a lot of moving parts. Small, fast defenders could chase anything down, and blitzes out of the 4-3 were rare. New coach Chuck Pagano has brought a hybrid 3-4 scheme that creates much more mystery about who's rushing and who's dropping. There will be bigger linemen and more man coverage on the secondary. Critics of the old scheme might have called it bland and predictable. Some of the current Colts defenders are branding this one exotic."

Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. likes the linebackers and not the offensive line.

For the full preview, please head here. (Be sure to read Horton's fine print section on the right after you watch the preview video above it.)
The next stop in our series of NFC South previews and projections is second place in the division, which was kind of difficult to determine.

That’s because I had one answer (it is my blog) and the consensus of our panel of experts was another answer. But I made the decision to go by what the consensus had to say.

Here’s the link to the preview and prediction page for the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans fans, you can thank Jeffri Chadiha for pulling the Saints down to No. 2. He has them finishing third in the division.

Here’s what I wrote about the Saints:

Five things you need to know about the Saints:

1. Who's missing? Coach Sean Payton is serving a season-long suspension. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt has a six-game suspension, and general manager Mickey Loomis has an eight-game suspension. But aside from the coaches and the administrator, the impacts of the punishments from the bounty program should be minimal. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has a season-long suspension, was a great player a few years ago, but his age caught up to him last season. The Saints went out and upgraded when they signed Curtis Lofton. Defensive end Will Smith will be missed while he's out the first four games, but players such as Junior Galette and Martez Wilson can be decent temporary fill-ins.

2. Sproles will be better: The coaching staff only just began to figure out how to use Darren Sproles last season, so it's a safe assumption he'll continue to get better. Sproles can make things happen as a runner, receiver and return man. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is going to unveil new ways to get the ball into Sproles' hands.

3. Coach on the field: Drew Brees always has been highly motivated and competitive. He signed a $100 million contract in the offseason, and that alone should have Brees motivated to prove he deserves to be the best-paid player in the league. Oh, and he can just grab onto the us-against-the-world mentality the rest of the Saints are embracing.

4. Defense will be better: The Saints parted ways with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams long before we started to hear about the bounty drama. That's because Williams' defense was no longer getting the job done. He produced enough turnovers to help the Saints win a Super Bowl in his first season. In the two seasons after that, his defense didn't produce much of anything. It's now Steve Spagnuolo's job to get the defense fixed, and that may not be an impossible task. There is some individual talent, and Spagnuolo should be able to at least slow opposing offenses with a more balanced approach. You'll see very little of the type of gambling that was common in Williams' scheme.

5. O-line change: If there's one on-field area of concern, it's the offensive line. The Saints lost Carl Nicks to Tampa Bay in free agency. They quickly replaced him with Ben Grubbs, who is only a notch or two less of a player than Nicks. But the parting of Nicks and Jahri Evans means the Saints no longer have the NFL's best guard tandem, and that's siginificant. I've always thought Nicks and Evans made center Brian De La Puente and tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief look better than they actually are. Grubbs is solid, but I don't know if he's one of those guys who can make people around him better.
Drum roll please ... my prediction for first place in the AFC North is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, before you crack open an Iron City in celebration, I should let everyone know my track record when it comes to predictions. I'm very good at predicting games week to week. But I'm absolutely terrible at season predictions. Last season, my forecast for the division (from first to worst) was: Steelers, Ravens, Browns and Bengals. In other words, I was wrong on every team.

Here's the preview page for the Steelers. And here's five things you need to know about them:

1. They want to run the ball: At least, run the ball more than they did last season, when they kept it on the ground 42 percent of the time. The 434 rushing attempts in 2011 were the Steelers' second-fewest total in the past 20 years. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has returned the fullback to the Steelers' offense, and set the tone in training camp by running on nearly every play in the first full-team drill. With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) expected to miss the first month of the season, the Steelers are turning to Isaac Redman, who has averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his two-year career and ran for 121 yards in the playoff loss at Denver. Durability is a question mark for Redman, because he's had double-digit carries in only four career games and missed time this preseason with an injured hip.

2. Top-ranked defense isn't satisfied: The Steelers' defense finished No. 1 last season for the third time in Mike Tomlin's five years as coach, but the players don't feel as if they were dominant on that side of the ball. Pittsburgh was tied for 17th in the NFL with 35 sacks, and ranked last with 15 takeaways. The Steelers either had no takeaways or just one in 13 of 17 games last season (including the playoffs). Increasing the pressure on quarterbacks should increase turnovers. Healthy versions of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley -- they missed a combined 11 games last season -- would boost both sacks and takeaways.

3. Stability on offensive line is much-needed: The blockers for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger were stuck in a bad game of musical chairs last season. The Steelers used a league-high 25 different offensive-line combinations, and they started four players at left guard. Pittsburgh showed its commitment to creating some continuity on the line by selecting offensive linemen with its first two picks in the 2012 draft (guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams) and by re-signing tackle Max Starks. The Steelers moved Willie Colon from tackle to left guard, and started DeCastro at right guard from the start of the preseason. DeCastro, injured in the preseason against Buffalo, might not play this season, however. Starks and Adams are battling for the left tackle job.

4. Cornerbacks will get tested: Even though the run defense dropped from first to eighth last season, the target is on the Steelers' unproven cornerbacks. Keenan Lewis, the nickelback last season, is taking over for William Gay. Lewis has fought through injuries in training camp to keep the starting job from Cortez Allen, who is expected to be the third corner. Quarterbacks aren't going to be throwing in the direction of Ike Taylor. Only 41 percent of passes were completed against the seven-year starter last season. That means the pressure is on Lewis and Allen, who have combined for one start and one interception in their careers.

5. Timing is right for Roethlisberger: The two-time Super Bowl winner turned 30 this year, hitting the prime of his career. And with the retirement of Hines Ward, all eyes are on Roethlisberger to lead this offense. The key to Roethlisberger has been and always will be his health. He's recovered from an ankle injury that derailed his season, and he doesn't seem concerned about a small tear in his rotator cuff. Roethlisberger, who has been sacked at least 40 times in five of his past six seasons, has built a reputation of playing through pain. Imagine what he could do in an injury-free season.

DIVISION FINISH: 1st -- With all of the camp drama now over, Pittsburgh has the fewest questions of any team in the division. As long as Roethlisberger remains healthy and the defense remains in the top five, the Steelers are the class of the division.

Our Texans' pick: First place

August, 30, 2012
Our picks are in, and it's no surprise likes the Houston Texans to win the AFC South.

"Only a team as talented as Houston could lose Mario Williams and actually be better the following season," says Adam Schefter.

Johnathan Joseph is primed to be even better, I write in our Intelligence Report: "The cornerback is just what the Texans hoped for when they brought him in as a free agent last year. Now, in his second year, he's far more comfortable with what the team does defensively and with his environment. He's mentoring the other starter, Kareem Jackson, and helping make young receivers better more quickly. Joseph will continue to track the other team's best receiver, and that challenge will be giant considering some of the talented wideouts the Texans will encounter this year."

Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. still has questions about the offensive line.

For the full fill, please head here. (Be sure to read Horton's fine print section on the right, right after you watch the preview video above it.)
As we make our climb up my predicted AFC North standings, the next team to address is the Ravens. Yes, I have the Ravens as the third team.

Let's be honest, there was no way I was going to win here. If I picked the Ravens to take the division, I would be accused of being a Ravens homer. If I put them second, I would be accused of playing it safe and being too boring. By putting Baltimore third, I know I will get that I'm being tough on the team so no one thinks I'm a Ravens homer. I think that about covers it.

So, how did I make this decision? I went with my gut. And my gut says Joe Flacco will have a career year. The problem for the Ravens is they have too many question marks from their aging offensive line to their lack of a pass rush.

Here's the link to the preview page for the Ravens. And here are five things you need to know about the Ravens:

1. Joe Flacco is primed for a career year: He has more confidence than ever after coming within one failed catch of leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl. The Ravens added Jacoby Jones as a third receiver to go with Torrey Smith, giving Flacco his fastest group of targets yet. New quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, a stickler for fundamentals and mechanics, was brought in to get more consistency out of Flacco. This is the first year where it feels as if Flacco is in total control of the offense. Going no-huddle in the preseason, Flacco looks like Peyton Manning when he's calling out plays at the line of scrimmage. As far as motivation goes, it doesn't hurt that Flacco is entering the final year of his contract.

2. Bad year to lose Terrell Suggs: There's no timetable on the return of Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is out indefinitely with an Achilles injury. The Ravens need him as soon as possible when it comes to this year's schedule. Baltimore plays 13 games against Pro Bowl quarterbacks, including four Super Bowl-winning ones (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning). Generating a pass rush is going to be a challenge. With Suggs out, the current players on the roster accounted for 25 of the team's 48 sacks last season. If the Ravens give these quarterbacks too much time, they'll get picked apart.

3. The offensive line is ancient by NFL standards: The Ravens could end up starting three linemen who are at least 32 years old. But age is only part of the problem with this group. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie is dealing with a weight issue again. Left guard Bobbie Williams is coming off season-ending ankle surgery. Center Matt Birk missed a large portion of training camp with a back injury. The right side of the line is the team's strength. Marshal Yanda is one of the best right guards in the league, and Michael Oher has made improvements this offseason. This represents the X factor for the Ravens' offense this year.

4. Special teams is a focus: The Ravens were one of four teams to allow three touchdowns on returns last season. That didn't sit particularly well with coach John Harbaugh, who was the longtime special-teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. Improving this area was a priority for Baltimore, which made Corey Graham, a Pro Bowl special-teams player last season, its first signing in free agency. The Ravens also re-signed Brendon Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowl special-teams player. It would be a big disappointment if the Ravens gave up the same number of big returns as last season.

5. This could be the Ravens' final season with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed: Lewis refuses to discuss retirement even though he is entering his 17th NFL season. But he once said he can't see himself playing past 37 years old, and he turned 37 in May. Lewis started off strong last season and was among the NFL's top inside linebackers in the first half. Then, after missing four games with a toe injury, he seemed to wear down toward the end of the year. For Reed, it's not a matter of calling it quits. He wants to play another four or five seasons. But he's entering the final year of his contract, and the Ravens' priority is re-signing Flacco. It's hard to imagine the Ravens' defense without these future Hall of Famers.

DIVISION FINISH: 3rd -- There are major questions, from the loss of Terrell Suggs to an aging offensive line. The lineup of strong quarterbacks on the schedule only compounds the problem. You can't expect John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco to get to the playoffs every year.
We continue our season previews and predictions with the Carolina Panthers.

You can see the Panthers’ preview page and predictions if you click here. Our expert panel gave the Panthers a couple of second-place votes, but the consensus is that they’ll finish third in the NFC South. That’s the same thing I predicted.

Here’s what I wrote about the Panthers:

Five things you need to know about the Panthers:

1. What sophomore slump? I can't understand why people even suggest that Carolina quarterback Cam Newton might have a sophomore slump. It simply isn't going to happen. Did you happen to notice what Newton did last season, when he was selected the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year? Newton set all sorts of records and, most important of all, he did it in a lockout year in which he couldn't work with his coaches until training camp. Newton has had an entire offseason program with his coaching staff, and he's a year older and wiser. There's no way he takes a step backward. If anything, he takes several steps forward.

2. Looking to break out: Aside from Muhsin Muhammad, the Panthers never have had a real complement to Steve Smith. But that's about to change. The Panthers firmly believe third-year pro Brandon LaFell is ready to be a solid No. 2 wide receiver. LaFell was held back as a rookie because former coach John Fox was opposed to the team's youth movement, and his offense didn't feature the passing game. The Panthers brought LaFell along slowly last season, but he showed some promise as the year went on. After seeing LaFell in the offseason program, they are convinced he's comfortable in the offensive system and ready for a breakout season.

3. The comebacks: Much has been made about defensive tackle Ron Edwards and linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis missing almost all of last season due to injuries. You can't understate the significance of that because those are three key players, and the defense fell apart without them. The fact that Beason and Edwards are back is reason enough to think Carolina's defense will be significantly improved. Edwards should give the Panthers the kind of run-stuffer the Panthers have lacked since the departure of Kris Jenkins, and Beason is the defense's leader. Davis is coming off his third torn ACL, and the Panthers are realistic with their expectations. If he can contribute as a situational player, that will be viewed as a bonus.

4. Backfield in motion: A lot of people seem to be worried about how the Panthers are going to use DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the same backfield. Let offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski figure that one out. Chudzinski previously coached Tolbert in San Diego and lobbied the Panthers to sign him as a free agent. General manager Marty Hurney listened, even though he had signed Wiilliams to a big contract last year and later would sign Stewart to a contract extension. Chudzinski, called "The Mad Scientist'' by his players, must have big plans for all three. The Panthers are listing Tolbert as a fullback, but they freely admit he'll get time at tailback. Are there enough carries to keep all three happy? Chudzinski must believe so, or else he would have been lobbying for more wide receivers or tight ends.

5. The next step: One of the best moves I saw this preseason was when coach Ron Rivera called out defensive end Charles Johnson. Rivera said Johnson has been doing what's required, but not anything extra. It's not difficult to figure out what that was all about. Rivera sees a player who's accounted for 20.5 sacks the past two seasons just getting by on natural ability. The Panthers had a guy like that once. His name was Julius Peppers, and he was sometimes very good, but never consistently great. The Panthers want Johnson to step up and be great.

Previewing and predicting the Bucs

August, 30, 2012
As promised, we’re rolling out our predictions for the 2012 NFL season today.

We’ll go in reverse order in the NFC South. Here’s the link to the preview page for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, complete with predictions from our expert panel and me.

Here’s what I wrote about the Bucs:

Five things you need to know about the Buccaneers:

1. The real Josh? Quarterback Josh Freeman has to get back to playing like he did in 2010 for this team to have a chance. Freeman can't have another season in which he is anywhere near the league lead in interceptions. He took a lot of blame for last season, when everything was breaking down around him. But there are no excuses this time around. The Bucs acquired Vincent Jackson to be a true No. 1 receiver and guard Carl Nicks to help protect Freeman, and they drafted an all-purpose back in Doug Martin. There's a decent supporting cast in place, and the Bucs believe that will get Freeman back on track.

2. The rookie will get the ball: Although LeGarrette Blount has done everything right through the offseason, I still think Martin gets the bulk of the playing time. When he was at Rutgers, the best running back Greg Schiano ever coached was Ray Rice. Schiano has compared Martin to Rice several times and raves about his ability as an all-around back. There will be a role for Blount, likely as a power runner, but I'm guessing Martin will be on the field the bulk of the time.

3. Clark ready to bounce back: The Bucs unloaded tight end Kellen Winslow, who already was clashing with Schiano. They replaced him by signing veteran Dallas Clark, who has had injury problems in recent seasons. But Clark appears to be healthy and in great shape. The Bucs are hoping he can give them about 70 catches. They also think he'll bring a positive influence to the locker room. Clark played for a lot of good teams in Indianapolis and might be able to show the younger players how to win.

4. McCoy's health: Aside from Freeman, the player with the most pressure on him is third-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He's suffered significant injuries in each of his first two seasons. When he has been healthy, it's obvious McCoy can be an impact player. But this front four, and really the entire defense, needs a 16-game season out of McCoy if it's going to be any good.

5. Problem spot? I'll wait until the regular season to decide for sure, but I'm not sold on Tampa Bay's linebackers. I think second-round pick Lavonte David is going to be very good. But I can't say the same about middle linebacker Mason Foster and outside linebacker Quincy Black. Foster struggled in the middle last season, and maybe he'll get better with experience. But Black has been around longer and never has been anything but ordinary.
Fourteen of 16 analysts are picking the San Francisco 49ers to repeat as NFC West champions.

That makes sense. The 49ers were 13-3 last season. They brought back nearly all of their important players. They upgraded other spots on their roster.

Why, then, would AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley pick the Arizona Cardinals to win the West? I asked him that question and got the following response:
"Obviously, the choice for the NFC West winner would've been different if the 49ers had lured Peyton Manning to San Francisco. And one of the big reasons why I chose Arizona is my lack of confidence in Alex Smith repeating last year's success.

"The Cardinals, in my opinion, are the team flying under the radar in that division. All of the focus has been on the quarterback battle. But the attention should be on an underrated Cardinals defense that is playoff ready.

"Don't get me wrong. There is concern at the quarterback position and the offensive line. I just think their talent at the skill positions on offense, namely Larry Fitzgerald, is good enough to offset those question marks. Plus, coach Ken Whisenhunt is undervalued as a coach in his ability to get the most out of his teams.

The Cardinals did build a double-digit lead at Baltimore last season. They did win seven of their final nine games. It is possible some of us have gone too far in embracing offseason storylines focusing on quarterback and offensive line questions. Those two areas do seem highly important, however. I'll be surprised if the Cardinals overcome them well enough to win the division.

Back in a bit with Matt Williamson's thoughts on why he thinks Seattle will win the West.
This is an exciting day, because we're rolling out our season previews and predictions for the 2012 NFL season.

We'll start at the bottom of the AFC North and work our way up. Here's the link to the preview page for the Browns.

This is the one team in the division which everyone, well except those in the Dawg Pound, can agree on as far as place in the final standings. There's no question the Browns have more talent than they did a year ago. But this will be another year of growing pains for one of the youngest teams in the league.

The previews for the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers are up next.

Five things you need to know about the Browns:

1. Pat Shurmur's seat is already hot: His first season was made more challenging by the NFL lockout, which meant he didn't meet his players until training camp. His second one is marked by a change in ownership, which has created an uncertain future for him in Cleveland. If that hasn't made his job difficult enough, Shurmur's top draft pick from 2011, defensive tackle Phil Taylor, is expected to miss at least the first six games with a torn pectoral muscle. His top pick from this year, running back Trent Richardson, had his knee scoped in training camp. Circumstances have made it tough to make a fair evaluation of Shurmur.

2. The offense is young: The Browns are close to fielding a college all-star team on offense. There is a chance that Cleveland will start as many as four rookies: Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Josh Gordon. That's in addition to the three players who started as rookies last season: wide receiver Greg Little, left guard Jason Pinkston and fullback Owen Marecic. The Browns needed to inject some new blood into their offense. Cleveland ranked 29th in offense last season and scored more than 17 points just twice.

3. The big concern on defense once again is stopping the run: Only two teams (St. Louis and Tampa Bay) were worse at slowing running backs last season. The Browns allowed seven backs to gain more than 100 yards, and the Ravens' Ray Rice ran for 204 yards. There's little hope that Cleveland's run defense has improved. The only major addition was defensive end Frostee Rucker, a free-agent signing from Cincinnati. That pales in comparison to the losses in the front seven. Taylor is expected to be sidelined until Oct. 21, outside linebacker Chris Gocong is out for the season with an Achilles injury and outside linebacker Scott Fujita has been suspended for the first three games for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal. The Browns open the regular season against Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, the NFL's fourth-leading rusher from a year ago.

4. Weeden doesn't lack confidence: The knock on Weeden has been his age (he turns 29 in October), but he's the poised leader this offense desperately needs. The problem is the times when he's too confident. Weeden plays with a gunslinger mentality and shows no fear in throwing into tight windows. That will often lead to turnovers, which was one thing the Browns' offense didn't do last season. Weeden is in a tough position, because his wide receivers don't have the speed to consistently get open.

5. Schedule poses a couple of problems: The NFL schedule-makers didn't do the Browns any favors at the beginning or end of the season. After the season opener against the Eagles, the Browns play three of the next four games on the road, and all come against teams that made the playoffs last season (Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants). Cleveland finishes the regular season at Denver and at Pittsburgh. That's consecutive road games against Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Cleveland is a combined 1-19 against them.

DIVISION FINISH: 4th -- The Browns have upgraded their talent with Richardson and Weeden, although it won't show in the win total. Cleveland is too young on offense and too vulnerable against the run on defense to hold up against a difficult schedule.