Five quick observations about the Cleveland Browns' 2020 schedule, which was released on Thursday night:
Quoth the Raven
The Browns haven't won a season opener since 2004.
And at first glance, the league didn't do Cleveland many favors in helping it end that drought.
Not only will the Browns be opening the 2020 NFL season against the Baltimore Ravens, who laid claim to a league-best 14-2 record in 2019, they'll be doing so on the road. Not that having a home-field advantage has been much help to Cleveland in recent openers --as evidenced by last season's blowout loss to the Tennesee Titans -- but facing Lamar Jackson will likely only be made harder in front of a hostile environment.
Then again, of the two regular-season losses the Ravens suffered last season, one of them did come to the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium. It's also worth noting that the last time Cleveland opened a season against Baltimore, it was also the last time the Browns won an opener -- granted, that was in 2004.
Of the 16 games on the Browns' schedule, two of the most anticipated were Cleveland's in-state matchups against the Cincinnati Bengals, who selected Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Browns won't have to wait long for that first matchup.
Four days after facing the Ravens in Week 1, Cleveland will host the Bengals for a matchup on Thursday Night Football, which will presumably mark the first of many head-to-head contests between Baker Mayfield and Burrow. Despite Burrow's ability, catching a rookie quarterback on a short week of rest so early in the season could prove advantageous to Cleveland, which is no stranger to the spotlight after playing in four primetime games in 2019.
If the Browns can beat the Bengals, they'll have a good opportunity to add a second straight win 10 days later when the Washington Redskins come to town. It may be too early to project wins and losses -- then again, that's exactly what the NFL schedule is for.
As opposed to last year's schedule, which was frontloaded with tough opponents before getting easier later in the year, the Browns' 2020 slate seems more evenly distributed. After opening with the Ravens, Cleveland won't face another team that qualified for last season's playoffs until Week 10 -- a home date against the Houston Texans following the Browns' bye week.
After that, just three opponents who made the playoffs last season (Eagles, Titans and Ravens) remain and the Browns will wrap up their 2020 season at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's not to say Cleveland's will be easy, as parity is a staple of the NFL. But after getting off to a 2-6 start in 2019, it may not take long for the Browns to find their footing this fall.
Under the radar
This time a year ago, the Browns were one of the NFL's most highly touted teams, as evidenced by Cleveland being selected for four primetime games -- the most allowed under league rules. This year, however, the Browns will be featured on national television just twice, with a Week 14 Monday Night Football matchup against the Baltimore Ravens joining the Thursday Night Football Bengals game as the only other primetime contest on Cleveland's schedule.
That's not necessarily a bad thing and could lead to a more regular rest schedule for the Browns. Plus, if Cleveland can manage to end its 18-year playoff drought, the Browns won't be hard to find come January.
- The Browns' Week 4 road matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 4 is a week before Mayfield's alma mater, Oklahoma, is scheduled to face rival Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 10.
- Odell Beckham Jr. will return to MetLife Stadium to face his former team, the New York Giants on Dec. 20. While the game won't be featured on national television, it will be the first of two straight weeks the Browns play in MetLife Stadium, with a road matchup against the Jets to follow.
- The Browns will play back to back road matchups three times.
- After facing the Bengals on Oct. 25, they won't play on the road again until Nov. 29 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.