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Monson: The Cleveland Browns are the biggest threat to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-22 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Every time you buy into the Cleveland Browns, you get burned. They were favored to win the AFC North a couple of years ago for the first time since it was called the division took on the name, and that precipitated the kind of collapse that saw most decision-makers of consequence fired and the franchise press the reset button once again. Yet, here we are again, looking at a team on paper that has the kind of strength to rival the Kansas City Chiefs, who the Browns came so close to upsetting in the playoffs just a few short months ago.

Rational analysis says we should buy into the Browns, and yet, fool me once…

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There is always going to be a holdover effect from the length of time the Browns have been the NFL's doorstop. Much the same way it often takes the Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams a year to catch up to the newfound dominance of a breakout player, it may take us all a full year of seeing the Browns be for real before we believe it isn’t just a figment of our imagination that dissolves once we try and connect with it.

If we look at why Cleveland’s season came off the rails last season, there was a clear and obvious culprit: the defense — and the secondary in particular. Overall, Cleveland finished with the No. 4 offense in the league by PFF grades but the No. 18 defense. That No. 18 mark was buoyed by Myles Garrett up front and was getting worse by the end of the season when the secondary was getting torched by some of the league’s better passing attacks.

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