Lane: The month of December could be an interesting one in Cleveland. With one of the easiest schedules on paper for the 2011 season, the Browns have an opportunity to sneak-up on teams and make a concerted run heading into the homestretch.
The final month of the season schedule appears to be a difficult challenge for the Browns, but a quick start could make it interesting.
December will likely be the Browns undoing, but the team and fans will finally have something to grasp upon heading into 2012.
Fred: The Browns play for the first half of the season and competitiveness against the division teams down the stretch will leave the fans wanting for more in 2012.
Even though, they might lose four or all five of their final five games, Browns fans will still feel a sense of optimism as the team plays as though it's headed in the right direction.
DK: Some of the darkest moments of Browns' fandom have come during the final weeks of the regular season. During the Browns' expansion era, the end of the calendar year has alternated between attaching false hope to a new savior, lamenting another lost season and looking ahead to the next draft. Ideally, the most depressing moments – Doug Pederson, Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye under center – have passed, yet 2011 could end in a similarly depressing manner.
A year ago, as the Browns' defense slowly cracked, Colt McCoy gave a valiant, but ultimately empty effort against the likes of the AFC North. This season, the Browns again finish with a torturous three-game sweep through their division. And while improvement may be on the horizon for the Browns, the annually rebuilding Bengals usually peak in December, while division leaders Pittsburgh and Baltimore will be trying to solidify playoff status.
And then the countdown to April's draft will begin.
Don: Cleveland enters its December schedule with more wins that most fans and analysts predicted. In fact, when TV networks flash the playoff outlook, the small, orange helmet is among the AFC hopefuls.
Although not to the consistency of a perennially playoff power, the Browns played well during the season to this point. The measuring stick lies ahead in December with two games each against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The Browns don't win them all. The Browns don't lose them all. Close games, a win over Baltimore and a win over Pittsburgh is not enough to put the Browns in the playoffs, but it is enough to establish more positive momentum entering the offseason.
Finally, this franchise has a positive outlook for the foreseeable future. Oh, and a win over Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same season is nice, too.
Editor's note: Read the previous three installments of The OBR's 2011 season predictions:
Part One: Best Case Scenario for the 2011 Browns
Part Five: How Will the Season Unfold? Browns Record Will Be...