The AFC North is in a deadlock to start the 2022 NFL season.
Despite not having their starting QB, the Cleveland Browns are in a three-way tie in the AFC North.
However, with their spot comes early talks of them being contenders this season.
Will the Browns miss the playoffs again or are discussions about them being contenders serious?
The Browns Have The Pieces To Be Contenders In 2022
While the Browns have Jacoby Brissett as their current starting QB, they have many other key players around him.
Those players are the pieces to a Browns run into contention in 2022.
However, it’s about how they use these players who are paramount to the Browns’ playoff hopes.
They have three solid running backs in Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D’Ernest Johnson.
Nick Chubb (3.63), Kareem Hunt (2.90), and D'Ernest Johnson (2.87) rank 1st, 3rd, and 4th in yards after contact per attempt among RBs with 25+ carries per Sportradar charting. Are the #Browns to RB scouting what the #Steelers are to WR scouting?
— Scott Spratt (@Scott_Spratt) November 11, 2021
Their play last season kept them in the top rankings for yards after contact, an important statistic for running backs.
This means the running game is so important for the Browns’ playoff chances with Deshaun Watson serving his suspension.
However, they also have star players on defense to help give their offense chances to score points.
The all-star group of Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, and Denzel Ward give them a solid defense.
But even with these critical pieces, the Browns can easily fail and miss the playoffs again.
Blame Game After Week Two Loss Shows Major Issues With Browns As Contenders
There was blown coverage in the Browns’ week two loss, with that blown coverage leading to a touchdown.
However, no one on the Browns’ defense was accepting responsibility for the blown coverage.
Grant Delpit & Denzel Ward answer questions about the blown coverage on the 66-yard TD with 1:22 left that cost the #Browns the game. Ward points the finger at Grant. Grant acts surely and blames, well, anyone but himself. Not a good look from either one. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/8KVvtgKFMu
— Roberto Shenanigans (@Rob_Shenanigans) September 20, 2022
Ward told reporters he was covering the flat, meaning Grant Delpit was the one to blame for the blown coverage.
But he wasn’t taking the blame, as he claims the blown coverage was simply a communication problem.
While it could be true, the lack of owning up to mistakes, and Ward throwing his teammate under the bus, doesn’t help.
It’s small things like this which can derail the Browns’ chances of contending this season.
Browns Won’t Contend This Season Unless They Fix Their Problems
Between miscommunication and poor play, the Browns can’t be contenders this season until those issues are fixed.
They also need to improve their play calls on critical downs, as they pass up points and take needless risks.
With Brissett as their current QB, they can’t afford to give away easy points in games like they did in Atlanta.
Sometimes they need to take the field goal over going for it on fourth down.
#Browns coach Kevin Stefanski: Jacoby Brissett was trying to throw high ball to David Njoku on failed fourth down on first drive. Throw got away from him.
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) October 3, 2022
While some of the fourth down risks paid off, the continual risks are costing the team easy points.
However, they thought taking risks against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was the best choice.
But those choices resulted in the team losing to the Falcons by three points.
The failed fourth down early in that game cost the Browns three points, enough points to send the game into overtime.
So unless things change in Cleveland this season, they won’t contend in a tough AFC North.