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Browns 2014 schedule NEARLY set

For fans of the Cleveland Browns, the popular expression is, "There's always next year." For that collection of fans, the 2014 Browns season schedule is nearly set in stone. Here's what Browns fans can look forward to next year.

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Browns home tilts:

Baltimore - Limping to the finish line after being humiliated by the New England Patriots at home, Baltimore has struggled this year to replace injured/released offensive talent, and the defense has taken time to acclimate to new personnel at previously established positions. Look to see Ozzie attempt to integrate some new playmakers on offense for Joe Flacco and re-establish an identity as a power running team with an aggressive defense.

Cincinnati - The likely 2013 division winner, Cincinnati has always been a tight draw with the Browns. When healthy, this team has a fierce defense and playmakers all over the field on offense. Expect another step forward in the offensive rankings as Cincy finds new ways to integrate playmakers Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard, as well as some consistency from #2/3 receivers.

Pittsburgh - The Steelers have rebounded in the second half of the season, and look to be finding some consistency in Todd Haley's high-percentage/run based offense, which is a large departure from the vertical scheme favored by Bruce Arians. Look to see Pittsburgh devote offseason assets to rebuilding the trenches and replacing aged DB's.

Houston - A playoff team in 2012, Houston has completely fallen off the face of the planet in 2013. Houston will have a new signal caller in 2013, as the team has shown zero trust in Case Keenum and will have to move on from a toxic relationship with quarterback Matt Shaub. This could be the first of a half dozen showdowns with a team featuring a new signal caller.

Indianapolis - Return of the prodigal son? Expect Trent Richardson to be treated with apathy and indifference at First Energy Stadium. The real problem will be containing Andrew Luck and his resurgent defense, as Indy has been shockingly good this year against quality competition.

New Orleans - Browns fans should pray that this matchup occurs in late in the season, where swirling winds and snow off the lake would help keep New Orleans high powered attack in check. New Orleans has been awful on the road in 2012, and struggles consistency in the cold weather.

Tampa Bay - Tampa could easily be showcasing a new coach and a new quarterback in the 2014 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. Don't expect the DNA of the team to change immediately with the new year....even without Shiano at the helm, Tampa should feature a stout defense and a run-oriented offense.

AFC West* - This matchup has yet to be decided.

Browns Away contests:

Baltimore - See above. Zombie Browns <<<<<

Cincinnati - See above.

Pittsburgh - See above.

Jacksonville - It seems like the Browns play Jacksonville every year, doesn't it? That's because these teams have lived in their respective basements for so long they've become quite familiar with each other. This match could be interesting for a long time, as both teams will be selecting players at very similar draft position this year, and may be bound by their selections for a long time.

Tennessee - The Browns play the schizophrenic Titans in Nashville this year. Tennessee has had an up-and-down couple of years lately, unable to escape the purgatory of mid-round picks despite playing competitively against quality opponents. There's hope in Tennessee that Jake Locker will be healthy next year and will be able to exhibit the same flash that he did early in 2013.

Atlanta - The Falcons are an unfortunate matchup for the Browns in 2014. Atlanta is (subjectively) far better than their 2013 record, and when healthy and restocked in the trenches, should return to capability next year despite playing in one of the most dangerous divisions in the NFL. Look for Atlanta to try to stabilize the offensive line play and infuse the defense with youth and talent in the offseason. Losing Tony Gonzalez next year will hurt, but a return of Julio Jones combined with the emergence of young receivers Harry Douglas and Darius Johnson will help soften the blow. Atlanta desperately will need an infusion of talent in its backfield.

Carolina - Carolina has shocked the (NFL) world in 2013 with a stifling defense and a return to prominence of Cam Newton, who had an off year in 2012. This team has reestablished an identity, and has impressive statement wins on the way to a potential 2 seed in the 2013 playoffs. This will be a stiff challenge for Chud in his return to Carolina. Look for the score in this one to be closer than expected, though, as Chud will likely be familiar with the talent in Carolina as well as "Riverboat Ron" and his tendencies.

AFC East* - Yet to be determined (mediocre) team. Get excited, Browns fans. The team outlook is bleak following another limping finish, but.....there's always next year. Full list of schedules can be found here.