We all know the Browns schedule was released yesterday. We all know they have five nationally televised prime time games including three Monday nighters, a Thursday night and a Sunday night game. This was not excepted but it is welcomed.
Two years ago, did anyone think the Browns would ever play a Monday night game? Even after last year’s good year, we were thinking maybe one Monday and one Sunday nighter at the most. Having five prime time games is on a whole new level. Remember last year when the Browns couldn’t even get CBS to broadcast their games in HD? Now, they get five prime time games and at least one other nationally televised game. I think it’s safe to say the Browns have come a long way. People actually respect the Browns. I know, I know. It’s feels good.
Of course that good feeling could turn to embarrassment, humiliation and regret real fast. The Browns play a very tough schedule. Seven teams on the schedule made the playoffs last year, including the Super Bowl champs NY Giants and the Indianapolis Colts. Six won 10 games or more, nine were .500 or better and the have a combined .535 winning percentage last year. Plus you can’t write off the Bengals and Ravens who are division rival always tough to beat. Add in the factor of being on national TV, playing on Monday Night Football, in front of a town that has waited more than 10 years for this kind of excitement and all the nerves that come with that and the expectations, and things could spoil fast. As GFB said yesterday, “Here’s to really hoping they’re not the fashionable team of the year that everyone complains about on prime-time because they suck.” Let’s hopes that not the case.
For today, though, let’s not think about that stuff. Let’s have fun with the schedule. Let’s think of how much fun it will be watch the Browns play in meaningful games that the whole country is watching. Let’s be proud that our Browns have built a team that people want to see (or at least the team the people who tells us we want to watch want to watch). Let’s think about all the sleep we are going to lose staying up late and watching these games and making the drive home from Cleveland at midnight but not caring because the Browns just won a Monday Night Football game. The tailgating possibilities are endless with these night games. I think there will be a lot of calling off Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings in northeast Ohio this fall.
I’m going to break down the schedule this way; ranking the home games I want to go to the most and ranking the road games I’d love to go to but know I’ll never do it so they are the games I’m looking forward to the most.
BEST HOME GAMES
1. Dallas, Sept. 7 - This was a tough call because the next week the Steelers come to the stadium for a Sunday night game and there is also the Monday night game against the Giants. I picked the home opener because the home opener is a game unlike any other. It’s always nice weather, the excitement is amazing, everyone has been looking forward to this all summer and it’s the first chance to get out and tailgate. This is the 10th straight year the Browns have opened the season at home. Each year, you can feel more and more hope and optimism. Eight of the nine years, fans have been sent home thinking this is going to be just like last year, a long losing season. This year, the excitement and optimism is more that just false hopes. The Browns have a team that can compete for the playoffs and winning this nationally televised game would be a huge start to the season. There’s just something special about the home opener and I wouldn’t miss it.
2. Steelers, Sept. 14 - Again, I could have picked the Giants Monday nighter but as a Browns fan, you have to pick the Steelers games. Yes, the Browns have lost nine straight to them but not this year. The streak is over. Plus, you can never turn down a chance to yell at those bastards from PA or get your drunk girlfriend to throw cups at them.
3. NY Giants, Oct. 13 - Monday Night Football finally returns to the place it started. You know Cleveland Browns Stadium will have a buzz to it, as will 72,000 people.
4. Broncos, Nov. 6 - Are you kidding me? A chance to go party in Cleveland on a Thursday and watch Jay Cutler throw four INTs. This will be a great night.
5. Ravens, Nov. 2 - Can you believe this is the first 1:00 start time at home this season and it all the way in November? As great as the night games are going to be, getting up at 6:00 am on a Sunday to go tailgate for a 1 o’clock kickoff is even better.
6. Colts, Nov. 30 - After a long weekend of turkey eating, sleeping and football watching, this is a great way to cap the weekend. By this point in the year, hopefully, this game will have some big playoff implications.
7. Bengals, Dec. 21 - When division rivals and winnable games are the last three games you want to go see, you know it’s a good schedule. Since this is over Christmas, my cousins who are friends with Carson Palmer will be in town, I’m hoping they can get me tickets.
8. Texans – Nov. 23 - Could be a great game against a team this is trying to do what the Browns did last year, earn respect and make a name for themselves in the NFL.
1. Pittsburgh, Dec. 28 - In the snow, in the hated city, with the division title on the line. Now that would be a great game.
2. Philadelphia Dec. 15 - They say the fans in Phily are much like the fans in Cleveland. Both are very passionate and have long suffered for a championship team. I’d love to go and see how pissed they get when the Browns beat them on a Monday night.
3. Buffalo, Nov. 17 - The Bills are another team like Houston, a young up coming team. As cold as it will be in Buffalo on a Monday night, it would be a great place to watch a game.
4. Washington, Oct. 19 - Simply to go and watch the Browns beat down Graig’s Redskins and see Derek Anderson throw for 350 yards and 3 TDs and then see him eat his words on his blog the next day.
5. Jacksonville, Oct. 26 - I just would want to go somewhere warm in October. This is the third game in a three game stretch that should tell you if the Browns are for real. It comes after the Washington game which is after the Monday nighter with the Giants. That’s a tough three-game run.
6. Tennessee, Dec. 7 - These bastards kept the Browns out of the playoffs last year. The Browns should remember that and go in there and crush the Titans.
7. 8. (tie) Baltimore, Sept. 21, and Cincinnati, Sept. 28 - I personally would rather eat my way through a pool of poop before setting foot in one of these cities/stadiums. I’ll be more the happy to watch the Browns whip up on them from home.
It’s a tough schedule but only based on last year’s records. In the NFL, more than any other sport, teams and go from playoffs to first pick in the draft and vice a versa. Hopefully that is the case for some of the Browns opponents and not the Browns themselves. Last year was not a fluke and they’ll have the chance to prove it, and in a lot of games, in front of the whole country.