Now that the 2019 NFL schedule has been released, fans can get a capsule of what the Browns’ season will look like - especially the key match-ups. Luckily, the season begins with a home contest against the Tennessee Titans. And with that first kickoff, it’s officially on.
In addition to playing every team in the AFC North home and away, this year Cleveland also has games against the AFC Eastern Division. What does that mean? Well, Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl Champs, that’s what it means. If everything that everyone is saying is true about where the Browns should end up this year, then if you are going to become one of the NFL elite clubs you have to play (and beat) the NFL elite clubs.
Let’s take a look at each week’s games and attempt to assimilate a final regular season record.
(All times Eastern)
Week 1: September 8 at home vs. the Titans 1:00 pm
The Browns are blessed that they are not playing a division foe right off and can get some traction going before they do. Two seasons ago Tennessee was a playoff squad and last year just missed the post-season with a 9-7 record. They are a good team and last year beat the Patriots 34-10 plus the playoff-bound Houston Texans. They cannot find consistency at the QB position but are stout with the run behind RB Derrick Henry plus Pro Bowl OT Taylor Lewan. This one should be close and could go either way in the opener.
Week 2: September 16 at New York Jets 8:15 pm
Right away, the NFL is placing the Browns against the Jets in a Monday night game. They are better this year with the addition of RB Le’Veon Bell, but they also enter this year with a new coach after Todd Bowles was fired following a 4-12 season. It’s hard to imagine New York will get much better this year, but they have early picks in every round of the upcoming NFL draft which should place important players into positions in order to contribute right away. The Jets also added WR Jamison Crowder and former Ravens LB C.J. Mosley. Expect the Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold comparisons all week.
Week 3: September 22 at home vs. Los Angeles Rams 8:20 pm
Remember that part about elite clubs defeating other elite clubs? Well, here is the Browns’ first chance of showing the NFL universe that they are indeed players and no longer playas. Can Cleveland beat the defending NFC Champion Rams? Can Baker Mayfield beat the LA defensive backfield? How can the Rams defend OBJ, Jarvis Landry plus Antonio Callaway? How will the Browns offensive line match up against that treacherous Rams defensive front? Who will stop RB Todd Gurley? This will be one helluva game no matter who wins.
Week 4: September 29 at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 pm
The Baltimore Ravens are not the same team that captured the division last year, but even so it only makes reason that the Browns will split the series with them, especially on the road.
Week 5: October 7 at San Francisco 49ers 8:15 pm
Another Monday night game? So early? The NFL schedule-makers already know that this team is one that everyone is going to want to watch this year. The Niners may improve from their 4-12 record especially with QB Jimmy Garoppolo finally being healthy, but realistically if they went 8-8 they should consider that a winning season. Last year the 49ers allowed 346.6 yards per game on defense while the offense only scored 21.4 points per contest. This one won’t even be close.
Week 6: October 13 at home vs. Seattle Seahawks 1:00 pm
Very difficult to say what type of team the Seahawks will put on the field this year. On one hand is the NFL’s best paid QB in Russell Wilson, while on the other hand is a damaged bunch of wide receivers such as Doug Baldwin. The defense is nowhere what it used to be with the departures of CB Richard Sherman and SS Earl Thomas with a new address in Baltimore, plus S Kam Chancellor’s reoccurring issues with bone spurs in his neck has spurred thoughts of retirement. A road game here might have become a loss.
Week 7: October 20 BYE
Week 8: October 27 at New England Patriots 4:25 pm
This will probably become the biggest test this franchise will see all year. On the road against the Super Bowl champs, in their unfriendly confines, placed as the later game when most folks can only choose between three games so in essence the entire nation will be watching. The schedule gods blessed Cleveland with that bye week just prior to this game to allow them added preparation time. This one will be determined in the fourth quarter in the last four minutes and could go either way. The home crowd may become the determining factor.
Week 9: November 3 at Denver Broncos 4:25 pm
Back-to-back tough opponents on the road and with the late time slot which allows maximum viewership. The Broncos’ offense will be manned by all too familiar former AFC North foe QB Joe Flacco who will know the Browns very well. Denver runs the ball extremely well with rookie RB Phillip Lindsay and a veteran offensive line but were 24th in total offense last season and struggled inside the opponent’s 30-yard line. Denver’s defense remains an elite group headed by Pro Bowlers DB Chris Harris and LB Von Miller. Will be the debut of RB Kareem Hunt which will make the network happy.
Week 10: November 10 at home vs. Buffalo Bills 1:00 pm
Without a doubt, this will be billed as Baker Mayfield vs. Josh Allen. And it should be. Before last year’s draft the big rumor was that the Browns were enamored with Allen and was a cinch they would select him with the first overall pick. But while Cleveland flourished once Mayfield took the reins of the offense, Allen’s Bills ranked 30th in the league in total offense. And while Mayfield played fewer games than Allen, he ranked 17th in the NFL in passing yards while Allen came in at number 32. Buffalo also ranked at the bottom in total team defense.
Week 11: November 14 at home vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 8:20 pm
Third biggest contest for Cleveland will be a good game for three quarters on a Prime time Thursday night game. The Steelers were once king of the division but missed the playoffs last year and have simply imploded. Poor Pittsburgh. Although the Steelers will bring their stout defense, their once-potent offense is now hit-or-miss.
Week 12: November 24 at home vs. Miami Dolphins 1:00 pm
The last of a rare NFL three-game home stretch. Hard to imagine the Dolphins will improve much this year after they fired their coach and allowed starting QB Ryan Tannehill to leave along with WR Danny Amendola plus the retirement of OG Josh Sitton. The 29th ranked defense lost DE Cameron Wake and will in all likelihood be hard-pressed to duplicate last year’s 7-9 record.
Week 13: December 1 at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25 pm
While the Browns-Steelers Week 11 matchup will be All-Browns, road divisional games are always the toughest to win. Expect this one to go down to the final possession and could go either way.
Week 14: December 8 at home vs. Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 pm
There is little doubt this game will be anything but a blowout. The Bengals were dead-last in 2018 in team defense and are horrible against the run, which should be one of the Browns’ strengths this year especially with the addition of Kareem Hunt now getting carries alongside Nick Chubb. Expect the Cincinnati hopeful to leave early.
Week 15: December 15 at Arizona Cardinals 4:05 pm
This late game will become a match in which a lot of media coverage will be talking about home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs between the Browns, Patriots and Chiefs. The Cardinals need improvement everywhere and would love a 7-9 record, but they will need other games to accomplish that besides this one. Will it become Josh Rosen vs. Baker Mayfield?
Week 16: December 22 at home vs. Baltimore Ravens 1:00 pm
Last year’s division winner is going to find out very quickly two things: these are not the same old Browns, and Baltimore is really going to miss all the veteran players it allowed to sign with other clubs. Newly-christened QB sensation Lamar Jackson is going to have a tough day against the Browns defensive front four, plus a defensive backfield of Pro Bowl CB Denzel Ward, S Damarious Randall, CB T.J. Carrie and newly-signed SS Eric Murray. The Ravens used to have a classic defense but even the addition of S Earl Thomas will not be enough. Expect Browns’ DC Steve Wilks to have a very comprehensive scheme that keeps QB Lamar Jackson from using his strength of running for positive yardage and remain in the pocket where he tends to get befuddled.
Week 17: December 29 at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 pm
At this point, the Bengals and New York Giants will be fighting for the right to draft Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. The Browns will need to help their division buddies by spreading some love on the scoreboard and keep the Bengals dreams alive to replace aging QB Andy Dalton. Tiger draped fans will be leaving sometime in the third quarter in this one while the Browns will be able to rest some of their starters in the second half.
The State of the Browns roster looks great for this year – on paper. With an influx of young talent expected for the defense with a cornerback and perhaps a linebacker expected through the draft, this could become one of the greatest Browns teams since the Paul Brown and Marty Schottenheimer years.
Every club in the AFC North has regressed since last season plus the Browns play the AFC East which, except for the Patriots, were all weak teams.
While the defensive front four will be stout, the darlings of the franchise will ultimately become the offense and the firepower they possess. If the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs can all get along and realize that in every game there is only one football per play and compete each game unselfishly, expect a very polished team to advance into the playoffs with a division crown on its mantel with the hopes and determination of a deep run into the playoffs.
If the offensive line can retain their excellence with OG Austin Corbett moving into that vacant RG spot while OT Greg Robinson continues to improve, all eyes will be on this unit as the catalyst of the offense.
Just remember a few short seasons ago the Rams went 4-12 and then last year played in the Super Bowl. It can happen for the Browns. And it can happen this year.