For Cleveland Browns fans, the 2020 campaign is what you would call a success. A successful season has been a rarity for Browns fans in the city of Cleveland. That success started by going 11-5 and capturing a spot in the playoffs as a wild card team. Once they reached the playoffs, they defeated the big bad Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time in 17 games in the AFC Wild-Card Game. Then, they pushed Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to the limit in the AFC Divisional Round before ultimately bowing out.
Since the Browns had all that success last season, it’s going to be very interesting to see what the schedule looks like for this upcoming season. The AFC North will be playing the AFC West which means that the Browns will face the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Las Vegas Raiders. The AFC North will also be playing the NFC North meaning that the Browns will be playing the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, the Browns will play the Houston Texans (AFC South) and the New England Patriots (AFC East) because they both finished in third place in their respective AFC divisions. But because of the new 17 game schedule, the Browns will also be going against the Arizona Cardinals as they finished in third place in the NFC West.
Home Opponents: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Arizona Cardinals.
Away Opponents: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and New England Patriots.
Right away there are a few games that stand out just a little bit more than the others. Those games are the two games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, at Kansas City, and at Green Bay.
Since Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson have come into the league in 2018, the Browns and Ravens have had some spectacular games against each other (i.e. Week 17 2018 in Baltimore and Week 14 2021 in Cleveland). Plus, the bad blood seems to be redeveloping between the two teams and the games are starting to have an impact on playoff positioning and division standings. Imagine if the Browns and Ravens met each other in the AFC Championship, the animosity between the two teams would go from a level 10 to at least a level 50!
The Browns vs. Steelers rivalry has been dead for several years because the Steelers have dominated the Browns and the games have meant absolutely nothing. However, after the 2019 Thursday Night Football incident and the last two games between each other from last season, maybe the rivalry is being reignited. But first, the Browns will have to prove that the regular-season finale and the AFC Wild-Card victories were not flukes and that they can sustain it.
Are the Browns and Chiefs on the verge of becoming rivals? That seems to be a very real possibility if last season’s playoff game is any indication. Patrick Mahomes has already established himself as a superstar quarterback in this league. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield is still trying to find his footing in the league. Part of the reason for the inconsistency from Baker is because he’s had Hue Jackson, Gregg Williams, Freddie Kitchens and now Kevin Stefanski as head coaches. Whereas Mahomes has only been with Andy Reid since coming into the league.
The Green Bay Packers seem to be in a little bit of fluctuation right now as it’s unclear whether or not Aaron Rodgers is going to be the quarterback. However, the game is going to be in Lambeau Field, which still makes it difficult no matter who is under center for Green Bay.
Over the past few seasons, the Browns have opened their season against the Steelers or Ravens. Although there have been a few exceptions recently such as in 2019 when Cleveland opened the campaign by hosting the Tennessee Titans. Or in 2016 when Cleveland began the season in the city of brotherly love against the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2015, the Browns opened the season in the Meadowlands against the New York Jets and in 2013 the Browns hosted the Miami Dolphins to open the season.
But given the recent track record, it seems very likely that Cleveland will be opening the season against Baltimore or Pittsburgh, however, there is a major possibility that they could open the season at the scene of the crime from last season, which is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO.
If I were creating the Browns schedule for 2021, Cleveland would open their season at home against their other divisional foe, the Cincinnati Bengals. Opening the season against the Bengals might not be at the caliber of opening the season against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or Kansas City, however, the Bengals would not be a pushover. They want to win the Battle of Ohio and they want to prove that they’re going to be a factor in the AFC North and that it won’t just be a three-team race.