The Cleveland Browns became a hot commodity during the second half of the 2018 NFL season, thanks in large part to quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Now, after a week that saw the club add wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson, the expectations for this upcoming season are reaching new heights.
It seems like the league’s television partners are starting to take notice.
According to Michael McCarthy at The Sporting News, the networks are “fighting like cats and dogs for the right to televise Browns games this coming season.”
The Browns were once standard viewing in primetime, starting with the very first Monday Night Football telecast in 1970. Cleveland has appeared in a primetime game 56 times in franchise history, posting a record of 24-32 in those games, including wins last season against the New York Jets (a Thursday night game) and the Denver Broncos (a Saturday night game).
But since returning to the NFL in 1999, the primetime cameras have targeted the Browns less frequently, with the majority of their appearances coming through a league mandate that every team should be showcased at least once a season. (Although Cleveland have five primetime games in 2008, but the less said about that the better.)
That looks to be changing for the upcoming season, however, which leaves Browns fans to speculate which games are in line for a primetime slot.
In case you forgot — our 2019 opponents are set!— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) March 15, 2019
» https://t.co/Ltp6Haimko pic.twitter.com/9GpJ5pusn0
The most obvious choices are a road game against the New England Patriots and a home game against the Los Angeles Rams. The home game against the Seattle Seahawks could be a possibility as well.
It would seem likely that one their games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens would also be appealing as the Browns will be battling the Steelers and the Ravens for the AFC North title.
The networks could also build artificial storylines around the games against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, as they all currently sport quarterbacks that were second choices in the 2018 NFL Draft after Mayfield. (That is, if Josh Rosen is still on the Cardinals come the fall.)
There is also the game against the San Francisco 49ers, who are led by former Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacked by Jimmy Garoppolo, who at one time many Browns fans lusted over.
Per league rules, teams can only be scheduled for five primetime games, however, while a maximum of three teams can be flexed into a sixth appearance on Sunday Night Football.
The NFL usually releases the schedule right before the draft in April, and when it does it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Browns with four primetime games, along with a few attractive match-ups in the second half of the season that could be tempting to the networks if the team is playing well.