Browns start the off with marquee match ups, end with division rivalries.
In recent years, the NFL scheduled the Browns’s games like an in-coming high school senior schedules classes: getting the core classes out of the way in the morning in order to have an easy elective before lunch, then get early release in the afternoon. Browns games seemed always superfluous; teams had to play them because, technically, they were an NFL team to play. As a favor to fans, teams, and even the Browns themselves, the league tried to keep them playing at one o’clock every week as if to get the game over as quickly as possible so that everyone could enjoy the better games at 4:25 and 8:15.
For the first time in eleven years, the Browns will play four prime-time games, and four just-as-coveted afternoon games.
Noteworthy games on the Browns schedule are at the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football, a Sunday Night Football showcase at home against last year’s National Football Conference Champions, the Los Angeles Rams, and the true benchmark contest in New England against the Patriots in late October.
Here is the full schedule:
|1||Sept. 8||Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|2||Sept. 16 (Mon)||at New York Jets||8:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|3||Sept. 22||Los Angeles Rams||8:20 p.m.||NBC|
|4||Sept. 29||at Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|5||Oct. 7 (Mon)||at San Francisco 49ers||8:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|6||Oct. 13||Seattle Seahawks||1 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Oct. 27||at New England Patriots||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|9||Nov. 3||at Denver Broncos||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|10||Nov. 10||Buffalo Bills||1 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 14 (Thurs)||Pittsburgh Steelers||8:20 p.m.||FOX/NFLN/AMZN|
|12||Nov. 24||Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 1||at Pittsburgh Steelers||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 8||Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
|15||Dec. 15||at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 22||Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS|
This campaign is not without its usual quirks. In past seasons, the Browns played almost the entire division before Thanksgiving, had early Bye Weeks, had late Bye Weeks, played teams they already played in the pre-season, and even had the fifth toughest schedule one year despite going 4-12. This season will not disappoint in its weirdness. The Browns play their toughest opponents, by and large, before November 10, and run the gauntlet of the AFC North the remainder of the season.
Games to circle in red on the calendar include:
Cleveland at New York Jets: 9/16/19, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
In what could be dubbed as “The Colin Cowherd Bowl”, the Jets are most likely plotting their revenge for Sam Darnold, whose sub-par performance in Cleveland last year was grossly yet inadvertently overshadowed by the birth of the Legend of Baker Mayfield. The 4-12 Jets did very little to excite fans last year, and Sam Darnold’s rookie season could be construed as pedestrian –except by super-fan Colin Cowherd. Cowherd is effusive about the potential of Darnold, and, equally perplexing, is obsessed with exposing Baker Mayfield as an overrated fraud. Cowherd’s derision of the Browns is unflappable, and a Jets victory might give him ammunition to further denigrate the franchise. However, a Browns victory could have the opposite effect by proving to the sardonic sports-talk show host the Browns are for real.
Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland: 9/22/19, 8:20 p.m., NBC
“Offensive shootout” has never been said about a game in Cleveland since circa 1989. (The 2004 and 2007 Cincinnati Bengals games were more a result of terrible defenses than good offenses.) The game potentially has everything the league needs right now: young, fresh head coaching ingenues (Sean McVay and rookie Freddie Kitchens), talented young quaterbacks (Jared Goff and Mayfield), two possible top ten defenses, and two once storied franchises working to define the future of the league.
Cleveland at San Francisco 49ers: 10/17/19, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
The rest of the NFC West not named Arizona are no slouches, either. This will be another exciting matchup between two up-and-coming franchises with potential offensive stars. The 49ers will be better this year than they were last year. Jimmy Garoppolo should be back and at peak performance, ready to prove he has fully recovered from his knee injury.
Cleveland at New England Patriots: 10/27/19, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Many pundits speculated that this game was going to be one of the marquee matchups, scheduling it for a possible Monday Night or Prime Time Special. The 4:25 is close enough. New England is still the measuring stick, and the defending Superbowl Champions will not easily allow the upstart Baker Mayfield ascend to the throne while the Ageless Tom Brady is still eating avocado ice cream.
The Browns will be coming off of their Bye Week before this game. Even the luxury of having two weeks to prepare for the Pats has produced limited success for any team. Whatever the outcome, it might be an entertaining game.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland: 11/14/19, 8:20 p.m., Fox/NFL Network/ Amazon
The NFL has been pushing to kickoff the second half of the season with Thursday Night Football for years now, despite mixed opinions. One criticism has been that simply the games are not very good. The league has redoubled its efforts to create an entertaining event every Thursday by pitting rivals against each other. This year, by scheduling one of the most bitter, infamous rivalries in the NFL as the first Thursday game, it is proving it is serious.
This will be a real test to see if these Browns can truly be “The Kings of The North”. The Steelers are trending down with their off-season woes and in-fighting. Ben Roethlisberger has transformed into a cranky old man, complaining about his teammates, his coaches, and his team’s front office. Meanwhile, it is not like “Big” Ben is an elite NFL quarterback anymore. Serious issues on both sides of the ball in Pittsburgh coupled with a highly motivated, hungry Browns team should give the Browns a proper stage to establish their dominance.
The Browns close the season in the division. They could win it by December 8th, but, if they still need help, they have three winnable games — two on the road against Arizona and Cincinnati, both teams who will be done with their seasons by Week Three, and a Baltimore Ravens team who all they might have left to play for is pride.
Great expectations beget higher expectations, to paraphrase the Matthew Principal. The reward in from the NFL after an improved season is a tougher schedule. The league absolutely knew what it was doing by scheduling the hottest team in the league on four prime-time games. If the Browns expect to win the AFC North, they can not sleepwalk through it. It will be difficult, but, for the first time in a long time, the Browns schedule will be fun.