Patriots

Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

The New England Patriots have spent much of the last 20 years at the summit of the NFL -- the most successful franchise of this century. Over that same time, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the league's worst teams, with only a single postseason appearance since 2000.

Could these teams begin to switch places in 2020?

Last season was supposed to be the Browns' return to the spotlight, and the playoffs. Expectations were high for quarterback Baker Mayfield, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and an up-and-coming defense. Instead, Cleveland got off to a horrible start in 2019, losing six of their first eight games, including a Week 7 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. 

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Despite all that unfolded in Cleveland last season, many experts are still high on the Browns' chances in 2020. In fact, one of them is even willing to predict the Patriots will be worse than the Browns.

“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," ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark said on the "Get Up" morning show earlier this week. 

"I believe that the Browns young quarterback (Baker Mayfield) will play better than the young quarterback in New England. 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.”

Oddsmakers don't agree with Clark. 

The Browns are underdogs to reach the playoffs with +137 odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook, while the Patriots are expected to make the postseason at -177 odds.

It's also hard to trust the Browns until they show the mental toughness required to play football into January. Bad penalties, turnovers, poor coaching and other avoidable mistakes have plagued the Browns for many years, and last season was no different.

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Another factor working against the Browns is their division. The AFC North is not a joke.

The reigning division champion Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 last year and should again be a top Super Bowl contender. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a playoff team for much of the last two decades, and they'll be aided by the healthy return of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of 2019 due to injury. The Cincinnati Bengals are the worst team in the division, but selecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft has renewed hope in Cincy.

It's not inconceivable for the Browns to be better than the Patriots in 2020. The Patriots will have plenty of challenges, too, most notably adjusting to a new starting quarterback. New England's schedule also is among the toughest in the league, and the defense lost several key players in free agency.

Still, it's hard to bet against a Belichick team, especially when the other team in the conversation is the Browns. The smart money in this debate is with the Patriots.

NFL players rip league's postgame jersey swap policy for next season

NFL players rip league's postgame jersey swap policy for next season

A tradition that became popular in international soccer has become a staple of NFL postgames in recent years, but it might not be allowed during the 2020 season.

Swapping jerseys with an opponent is now commonplace in North American professional sports leagues. We often see younger players swap jerseys with veterans who they grew up watching. Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a sought-after player for the postgame jersey swap. Multiple players from the Washington Redskins asked for his No. 12 jersey after a Week 5 game last season.

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Well, unfortunately for NFL players, swapping jerseys could be banned in the upcoming season as the league tries to implement social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the NFL and NFLPA have not yet agreed on all of the medical protocols for gamedays. NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported the latest information Thursday:

Players were not pleased with this development, to say the least.

One of the most outspoken players was San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who tweeted the following message. It earned a retweet from Patriots running back James White, among other players.

Many other players were not afraid to share their displeasure with the jersey swap potentially being banned. Here are some of those reactions:

With opposition so strong and coming from several of the league's stars, it'll be interesting to see if the league eventually eases up and allows jersey swaps to happen as normal next season.

WATCH: Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry meet for first workout as Patriots teammates

WATCH: Cam Newton, N'Keal Harry meet for first workout as Patriots teammates

Cam Newton is wasting no time getting to know his New England Patriots wide receivers.

The new Patriots quarterback, who officially signed a one-year contract with the team Wednesday, linked up with wideout Mohamed Sanu last week for a few throwing sessions in Los Angeles.

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This Wednesday, it was N'Keal Harry's turn to catch passes from Newton, according to Boston.com, which obtained video of the duo's L.A. workout from EBA Sports.

The video shows Newton meeting Harry for the first time as a member of the Patriots before throwing the second-year receiver a handful of passes.

Newton and Harry worked out together for about two hours and were later joined by Cleveland Browns star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., per Boston.com.

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Harry has been working hard this offseason to improve his game after a disappointing rookie campaign. The Patriots' 2019 first-round pick appeared in just seven games last season due to a nagging ankle injury, catching 12 passes on 24 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

It's encouraging to see the 22-year-old on the practice field with Newton, who's aiming to bounce back from his own foot injury that limited him to two games in 2019.

Newton will have to beat out second-year QB Jarrett Stidham for the starting job, and it appears he's eager to get started while developing chemistry with his new pass-catchers.