What we have all been waiting for since... just a few weeks ago when the NFL draft ended has finally arrived. The NFL schedule release came off without a hitch but included slow leaks and announcements of games over the last few weeks.
While there are a lot of takeaways that we will break down, the first one is obvious: The Browns schedule starts out very tough. Facing off with all three members of the AFC North, even if two are at home, while adding the physical Tennessee Titans to the mix could make for a beat-up team after four weeks.
Opening up with in-state rival and defending AFC North champion Cinncinati Bengals will test DC Jim Schwartz’s new defense immediately. With QB Joe Burrow tossing it all over the field to Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Schwartz will have to have his secondary ready.
Following that, the pressures of Monday Night Football on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While many are not sold on QB Kenny Pickett, the Steelers haven’t had a losing season under Mike Tomlin and find a way to grind out games with a great defensive front.
A short week follows with a game against the Titans led by two bruising players in RB Derrick Henry and DT Jeffrey Simmons. While Tennessee drafted QB Will Levis in the second round, it is likely that veteran Ryan Tannehill will still be the starter by Week 3. A package of plays with the big, physical rookie could be in place to make things tough for Cleveland defenders.
Finally, the revamped offense of the Baltimore Ravens could be clicking by the time Week 4 rolls around. Todd Monken’s arrival is meant to unleash QB Lamar Jackson in the passing game. The addition of WRs Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and rookie speedster Zay Flowers will open up the middle of the field for TE Mark Andrews and the Ravens rushing attack.
After those four games, a rest will be helpful. Given the talented players and new coordinators added to the roster, Cleveland could be 4-0 heading into their Week 5 bye but fans might be happy with a 2-2 split early in the season.
While that difficult start makes the bye week a welcome sight, unfortunately, Cleveland jumps right back in the fire and doesn’t have a break, except for a few extra days after their Week 17 Thursday Night Football game on the road against the New York Jets. From the middle of October versus the San Francisco 49ers to some time in January, the Browns will play 13 straight games including seven road contests.
The tough start and early bye will not be excuses if Cleveland struggles this season. No matter what, the Browns must beat at least nine or ten of the teams on their schedule no matter how it was set up. A strong start in the division could help buoy the team later in the season when fatigue from the early bye sets in.
With a few (expected to be) easier games against the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and Houston Texans sprinkled in after the bye, Cleveland has a chance to rack up victories and build confidence and moment going into the final two weeks of the season.
What do you think of the Browns early schedule and Week 5 bye week?