With the release of the Cleveland Browns' 2013 NFL schedule on Thursday, it's time to take a very early look at how I rank the games when it comes to my initial impression.
These are very loose rankings, and it is difficult to rank AFC North games in particular because we face each team twice. My rankings take into account a combination of opponent notoriety (if they are a winning team), how often we face them, special circumstance (prime time, opening day), and storylines.
Ranking the Browns' 2013 NFL Schedule
|1||Week 2||Cleveland vs. Baltimore||After Ravens open season on road, they will likely celebrate Super Bowl win at home opener. Browns can make an early-season statement against the defending champions.|
|2||Week 7||Cleveland vs. Green Bay||The last time the Browns played in Lambeau Field was in 2005, when they stunned Brett Favre and the Packers with a 26-24 win. Remember Steve Heiden's 62-yard touchdown?|
|3||Week 14||Cleveland vs. New England||It's always fun to face Bill Belichick, and this time, you can add the storyline of Michael Lombardi facing his good friend.|
|4||Week 12||Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland||When it comes down to it, there is no game fans get more hyped for than Steelers games. I even had my heart in the Thad Lewis game in 2012. Scheduling the first Steelers game so late in the season is a disservice, though.|
|5||Week 5||Buffalo vs. Cleveland||This is Cleveland's lone prime time game, and it comes amidst a three-game home stretch. These two teams last met in prime time in 2008, when Jerome Harrison had a 72-yard touchdown run in a 29-27 Browns win.|
|6||Week 1||Miami vs. Cleveland||Cleveland opens the season at home again, and the storylines for this game could get even more interesting if they make a draft-related trade. The Browns also get to see WR Mike Wallace again.|
|7||Week 9||Baltimore vs. Cleveland||The Ravens are the team Cleveland faces as they head into the bye week, so a win at home would give Rob Chudzinski's team a lot of confidence for the second half of the season.|
|8||Week 11||Cleveland vs. Cincinnati||Just like you want to win heading into the bye, winning after the bye is just as important, especially when it is a divisional game.|
|9||Week 3||Cleveland vs. Minnesota||Adrian Peterson will be a nice early-season test for Ray Horton's defense: there is no doubt he is a beast, but Minnesota really doesn't have many other playmakers.|
|10||Week 4||Cincinnati vs. Cleveland||James Harrison returns to First Energy Stadium -- will he be a force like he used to be, or will he be the same guy who the Browns pushed around in 2012?|
|11||Week 15||Chicago vs. Cleveland||It is hard to identify or get excited about a Bears game when Brian Urlacher is gone. They have a new head coach in place, but right now there is just too much uncertainty here.|
|12||Week 17||Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh||We've experienced too many out-of-contention games against the Steelers in Week 17. Schedule us another opponent in Week 17 already, NFL. I'd have a different tone if we were contending.|
|13||Week 8||Cleveland vs. Kansas City||It'll be interesting to see if Andy Reid is able to turn the Chiefs around now that Alex Smith is under center; Cleveland had a rare blowout against them in 2012.|
|14||Week 6||Detroit vs. Cleveland||The Browns will get a crack against the Lions in the preseason. Which Great Lakes Classic match is more important: the preseason one, or the regular season one?|
|15||Week 16||Cleveland vs. New York||The Jets still seem like a big-time mess, and Tim Tebow is the poster boy for that.|
|16||Week 13||Jacksonville vs. Cleveland||No explanation needed. Seriously, though, if the Jaguars pick Geno Smith, he could do something to light a fire under this organization.|
What do you think? Are there any games that you would have drastically changed the ranking of on my list?