When the schedule for each team is released by the NFL, evaluators take a look at what each team faces, where their tough stretches will be, when are they on the road back to back, whether there are any short weeks, when is the bye week, etc. For the Cleveland Browns, the schedule seemed cut and dry:
- First four weeks are easy
- Next 9 weeks are mostly hard to very hard
- The bye week and Deshaun Watson’s return
- A mixture to end the season
We know how the start has gone, including the unique first five-week, for the Browns: Not good.
With just over a third of the season over already, now is a good time to look back at that schedule to do another evaluation of who Cleveland has already faced and what the teams ahead of them on the schedule look like as well.
- Neither of the Browns wins have come against teams with winning records.
Week 1 Carolina Panthers - The Panthers have fired their head coach, QB Baker Mayfield is injured and it is believed they may trade off pieces of their team. This week, WR Robbie Anderson was kicked off the team’s sideline during the game.
Verdict - Not a quality win but a win
Week 3 Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers have had an interesting season so far with victories over quality teams in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay but with four straight losses in between including to Cleveland. Losing to Buffalo, New England and the New York Jets is not alarming given injuries and the play at quarterback.
Verdict - A quality win partially because it is in the division and partially given who Pittsburgh has beaten
- None of the Browns losses have come against teams that currently have a losing record.
Week 2 New York Jets - A game many chalked up as an easy one, should have been. Instead, the Jets pulled out a miracle in Week 2 and have now won three straight including against Green Bay. New York’s two losses are to Baltimore and Cincinnati, two quality teams.
Verdict - While the Browns should have won the game, the Jets are much better through six weeks than anyone expected before the season.
Week 4 Atlanta Falcons - Another game many chalked up as a victory, and probably should have been, the Falcons have squared their record at 3-3 on the year. Atlanta has knocked off Seattle and San Fransisco, two totally different teams, with close losses to New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams. A six-point loss to the Buccaneers is their worse loss of the season.
Verdict - Not the same as the Jets but the Falcons are better than most expected. Still not a good loss.
Week 5 Los Angeles Chargers - Due to injuries, the Chargers haven’t been as good to start the year as many expected but are still 3-2 going into Monday Night Football tonight. The blowout loss to Jacksonville stands out while losing by three points to Kansas City isn’t a negative on their resume.
Verdict - A team that they would hope to compete with (and they should have beat) is probably the best team on their early schedule. An acceptable loss that they shouldn’t have lost.
Week 6 New England Patriots - Another team sitting at 3-3, the Patriots have beaten lesser teams while struggling against teams that are believed to be good. They wiped the floor with Cleveland on Sunday in the first game the Browns didn’t look like they even belonged on the field.
Verdict - The Patriots are undertalented but the discipline and coaching make up for it.
Browns Schedule - Next Six Games
(In italics, how is the opponent viewed now compared to before the season)
Week 7 @ Baltimore Ravens - At 3-3, the Ravens lead the AFC North, due to a tiebreaker, and have run hot and cold this season including losing to the New York Giants this week.
Week 8 Cincinnati Bengals - Also at 3-3, the Bengals have turned it around after a 0-2 start scoring 27 or more points in three of their last four games.
Slightly easier than expected
Week 9 @ Miami Dolphins - After a 3-0 start, Miami has lost their last three games with an offense that has scored, 15, 16 and 17 points in those games. Getting Tua Tagovailoa back from a concussion could greatly help their offense.
Week 10 @ Buffalo Bills - As expected, the Bills are one of the best teams in football and sit at 5-1 after knocking off the Chiefs in Week 6. Perhaps the most talented roster in the league with Josh Allen playing lights out and a defense that controls the game.
As expected (really, really good)
Week 11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sitting at 3-3, after a 2-0 start, injuries and age have caused some issues for the team. Tom Brady has struggled at times as his receiver group is constantly in flux.
Easier than expected
Week 12 Bye Week
Week 13 @ Houston Texans - The return of Watson against his former team on the road. A huge storyline that the NFL hopes will not be. The Texans are 1-3-1 at this point and are coming off their bye week. Jack Easterling was just fired on Monday, is that the start of the upheaval or a one-off move? Either way, Houston has been the team most expected they would be this year.
As expected (not very good)
While it doesn’t help, the Browns first six opponents were generally as good (or bad) as expected or better. Their four losses came against teams that currently have .500 or better records.
Looking ahead, the next six games come against mostly quality teams but, in the case of the Bengals and Buccaneers, a couple of teams that haven’t started the season as well as most expected. That doesn’t make it any more likely that a stumbling Cleveland team will be victorious but is something to be noted.
Are you surprised how good the Browns first six opponents have been compared to expectations?