Teams across the NFL have known their 2021 opponents for a few months, but on Wednesday evening they learned the specifics of just when they will be playing their 17 games this fall.
For the Cleveland Browns, the schedule release was a bit of a surprise, given that a team coming off an 11-win season, a trip to the Divisional round of the playoffs, and boasting what should be one of the league’s prolific offenses would normally be in line for the maximum number of primetime games.
IT’S HERE! ⏲️ NO MORE WAITING! The 2021 Schedule is HERE! https://t.co/GVBJTjk9q4 >> View Now and and tune in to "Schedule Release '21" on NFL Network at 8 p.m. for a full breakdown. pic.twitter.com/4hLjlsEpuA— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 12, 2021
Even so, there are some interesting nuggets to mine from the schedule, so here are four takeaways.
The National Spotlight
Even though the Browns are only currently scheduled to appear in primetime three times, the national spotlight will still shine on the team multiple times.
Cleveland will hit the trifecta of primetime slots as they will host the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football on October 21, face the Baltimore Ravens on the road on Sunday Night Football on November 28, and face the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road on Monday Night Football on January 3.
While they are not in primetime, two of the biggest games on the schedule will take place as national broadcasts — the season opener on September 12 on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs and a Christmas Day road trip to play the Green Bay Packers.
There is one caveat, as this year the Sunday night and Monday night games are subject to change beginning in Week 5.
A Late Start
The Browns will not open divisional play until Halloween, when they will play the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Once they get going, however, the division games will come in bunches, as the Browns will play division foes four times in a six-game stretch as they travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals the week after the Pittsburgh game, then have consecutive games against the Baltimore Ravens sandwiched around their bye week in Weeks 12 and Weeks 14.
That four games in a six-game stretch repeats itself starting with those games against the Ravens, as the Browns will close out the season by facing the Steelers and Bengals.
Starting divisional play so late gives the Browns some time to work out any early season kinks as they look to improve on a disappointing 3-3 divisional record from 2020.
An Even Later Bye
The Browns will not have their bye week until Week 13, which is the latest bye week for the team in five years.
While that is a long way to go into the season without a break, the Browns can use the timing to their advantage.
The bye week falls between the two games with the Ravens, which gives Cleveland a breather before the return match while the Ravens will be playing the Steelers.
It also gives Cleveland a much-needed rest before what should be a final five-game push for the playoffs and possibly their first division title since 1989.
A Bit Streaky
The Browns will have three consecutive home games as they play the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6, the Broncos in Week 7 and the Steelers in Week 8. They will also have a stretch of three home games in a four-game stretch as they play the Detroit Lions in Week 11, the Ravens in Week 14 and the Raiders in Week 15.
The only extended road stretch the Browns face starts in Week 9, when they play three road games in four weeks as they play the Bengals, New England Patriots and Ravens.