On the surface it’s a very bold statement to pick a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 17 seasons in the Browns against a perennial power like the Patriots. But with Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay this offseason after 20 seasons, there’s much uncertainty surrounding the Patriots organization. Taking the place of arguably the best quarterback of all time will be second-year passer Jarrett Stidham, a former fourth-round pick.
Clark believes the Browns simply have more pieces to be successful and the edge at quarterback.
“I don’t necessarily know if we’ve lived in a world the last two decades where you can make that statement and I go, ‘That’s probably right,’” Clark said on ESPN’s Get Up! on Tuesday (h/t NESN).
“You know, when you look at those two teams and the difference in the trajectory of what we feel they’ll be, I believe that the Browns will be a better football team than the New England Patriots this year. I believe the Browns young quarterback [Baker Mayfield] will play better than the young quarterback in New England [Jarrett Stidham],” Clark continued. “And when you put all of these things together that leaves Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on the outside of the playoff picture and [Browns coach] Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns in.”
Odds Have Patriots as Top Contenders to Win AFC
Vegas does not agree with Clark that the Browns will be better than the Patriots next season. Odds Shark has the Patriots listed at +700 to win the AFC North, behind only the Baltimore Ravens and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns are +1,500, meaning a $100 bet would win you $1,500.
The win totals are a little closer, with Odds Shark listing the Browns at 8.5 and the Patriots at 9 for next season.
Browns Aren’t Getting Caught up in Offseason Predictions
The Browns are no strangers to being the darlings of the offseason. After Mayfield’s big rookie season and a trade for Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason, Cleveland became the darlings of the NFL, garnering a snowball of hype leading up to Week 1.
But instead of breaking the longest current postseason drought in the NFL, the Browns finished 6-10, missing the playoffs and firing both their coach and general manager.
Mayfield is usually one of the more brash personalities in the media and isn’t shy to say what’s on his mind. But entering his third season, Mayfield is changing his approach.
“I think everybody who has been interviewed on our team has hit the nail on the head over and over about this is time to work,” Mayfield said during a Zoom call with reporters. “It is time to do our thing, instead of talking about it. This is the first media thing I have done, just because there is no need to be talking about it. It is just time to go do it and right now, it is moving in silence, which is fine with me.
“That is how I used to do it before getting on a bigger stage, so I am happy to get back to those roots. Like I said earlier, get back to the fundamentals to where I can accomplish the goals when the season comes around.”