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NFL may not shine opening weekend primetime spotlight on Browns

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NFL is expected to open the 2019 season with Chicago and Green Bay, while taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the Browns.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns fans are ready to see the team make a return to the primetime stage in 2019.

The NFL may have other ideas, however.

While the Browns have an attractive schedule this fall with games against the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks in addition to their traditional divisional games, they may not receive as much love from the networks as fans would like - at least early on in the season.

There has been some speculation that the Browns will hit the road in Week 1 to face the Patriots, but there is growing talk that the NFL will take a different approach to open its 100th season, according to John Ourand at Sports Business Journal:

The NFL is leaning toward having the Bears host the Packers for next season’s opening kickoff game on Thursday, Sept. 5, according to multiple sources. The move would mark the first time since 2006 that the Super Bowl champion will not appear in the league’s opening game. The newly crowned Patriots likely will host the season’s first “Sunday Night Football” game instead, on Sept. 8.

The NFL is leaning toward having Chicago host the season’s first game as part of its 100th season celebration, allowing it to showcase the league’s oldest rivalry. The Bears and Packers first played in 1921 and have faced each other 198 times.

The Patriots will still play in primetime on opening weekend, but Ourand sees the league having New England matchup with the New York Giants, given that the NFC has a stronger schedule than the AFC next season, and the networks will want to save some of the better AFC games for later in the season.

As for the Browns being New England’s Week 1 opponent? Ourand speculates that league officials may not be convinced just yet that Cleveland is worthy of such a high-profile game.

If that is the case, the Browns may very well face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opener for the third consecutive season if the NFL decides it wants to emphasize rivalry games to kick off its anniversary season celebration.

Even if they don’t get a primetime slot in Week 1, the Browns have enough high-profile games on the schedule that, if they play well, there will be plenty of interest from the networks to give the team as much exposure as it can handle this fall.