The Cleveland Browns are now truly America’s Team.
That was evident Wednesday night when the NFL released its full 2019 schedule, one that will highlight a Browns team that is expected to challenge for a playoff position this fall.
Here are four takeaways from the schedule.
The NFL is buying early on the Browns
Cleveland has only played in primetime 11 times in the past 10 seasons, but that number will increase dramatically this year.
The NFL has the Browns playing four primetime games — including three times in the first five weeks of the season.
That is a smart play by the league. If the Browns do as well as expected, the league still has opportunities to flex the Browns into another primetime slot in the final weeks of the season. If Cleveland struggles for some reason, the networks won’t be stuck with a bad matchup come November and December.
Things get challenging starting Week 3
Starting in Week 3, the Browns have a five-game stretch that will see them play at home agains the Los Angeles Rams, travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens and to San Francisco to play the 49ers, return home for the Seattle Seahawks and then hit the road again for a game against the New England Patriots.
The one bright spot is that the bye week falls between the games against Seattle and New England, which will give the Browns a chance to catch their breath a bit.
Home is where it needs to happen
Cleveland will have three consecutive home games in November, starting with the Buffalo Bills on November 10. Four days later they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night — which should be all kinds of fun — and then the Miami Dolphins on November 24.
Take care of business against the Bills and Dolphins, two teams the Browns are clearly better than, and signal their intentions with a win against the Steelers, and the Browns will set themselves up nicely for the season’s final stretch.
The North will be won late
The Browns will have five of their six AFC North Division games take place over the final seven weeks of the season.
After hosting the Steelers on November 14, Cleveland travels to Pittsburgh for the rematch on December 1. Both games against the Cincinnati Bengals occur in December (home on December 8 and the season finale in Cincinnati on December 29), and a home game against the Ravens on December 22.
If the Browns can keep it together through the first nine games of the season, the opportunity to claim their first division title in 30 years will be there for the taking.