The NFL schedule announcement is still an exciting event for me. I love all the rumors and leaks prior to the official schedule drop. I’m weird that way. When it is announced, I look for four things, prime time games, when the bye week falls, the first game opponent and how bad the NFL screwed the Browns. All in all, I’m very happy with this year’s schedule. The first opponent (Carolina) is a winnable game. The bye week falls in the middle (week nine) of the schedule. The two prime-time games are tough opponents (Bengals and Steelers), but both are at home. And the NFL really didn’t make this a tough schedule. Usually, I break down the schedule in quarters, but this time I’m breaking it down pre-bye and post-bye. Let’s go.
Sunday, September 11, at Carolina, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, September 18, New York Jets, 1:00 pm.
Thursday, September 22, Pittsburg Steelers, 8:15 pm.
Sunday, October 2, at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, October 9, October 2, Los Angeles Chargers, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, October 16, New England Patriots, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, October 23, at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 pm.
Monday, October 31, Cincinnati Bengals, 8:15 pm.
Sunday, November 6, Bye.
Sunday, November 13, at Miami Dolphins, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, November 20, at Buffaloe Bills, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, November 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, December 4, at Houston Texans, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, December 11, at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 pm.
Saturday/Sunday, December 17/18, Baltimore Ravens, TBD.
Saturday, December 24, New Orleans Saints, 1:00 pm.
Sunday, January 1, Washington Commanders, 1:00 pm.
Saturday/Sunday, January 7/8, Pittsburg Steelers, TBD.
In the first eight games prior to the bye, the Browns play five home games, with the first four games as winnable, especially the first game. I like the Browns opening on the road, less pressure. The first prime time game is Thursday week three. Luckily the Browns play at home week two, so the short week won’t be a factor. The tough stretch comes during weeks five through eight, but three are at home. Of these three home games, the toughest might be the Chargers, but the NFL did the Browns a favor (a phrase I never thought I would utter) by making it a 1:00 pm start. West coast teams usually don’t do well when playing an early game in the eastern time zone. The road game in Baltimore week seven will be Browns’ first tough road game.
After the bye week in week nine, which is the perfect time for the bye week, the Browns play three of the last nine games at home. However, of those six road games, four or five are winnable. The toughest road game is the Bills game, and the toughest home game is the Buccaneers. The NFL did the Browns a favor (there’s that phrase again) by scheduling two of the three holiday weekends as home games. Thanksgiving weekend they host Tampa, Christmas weekend they host New Orleans and New Year’s weekend they travel to Washington. The players will be home for the holidays. The week 15 game against the Ravens and the week 18 game against the Steelers are both “To Be Determined” so there is a potential for afternoon or prime time games.
As I said, I like this schedule. The potential to win their first opener is there (I’m really tired of 1-21-1). Usually, the NFL schedules the Browns for three or four games against teams coming off their bye week. This year there’s only one, Tampa. For now, both prime time games are before the bye week. As the season drags on, the weekly game day routines are a positive. I don’t think the NFL made this schedule with a Deshaun Watson suspension in mind. Sure, the first four games could appear to suggest an early four-game suspension, but the NFL wouldn’t put a big rivalry game in prime-time week three. As for a potential late-season suspension, there are too many games with the possibility of high television ratings. The Bills game, the Tampa game, the Houston game and the three AFC North games. The NFL loves big television ratings.
Finally, the Browns have opened as a 4-to-4.5-point favorite for game one versus the Panthers, their over/under for wins is 9.5 and they have the second easiest schedule over the first four games in the NFL. In the tough AFC, the Browns need to win the division to make the playoffs and that will take at least eleven wins. After looking at this schedule, it’s certainly possible.