CLEVELAND — The NFL released its full 2021 regular-season schedule on Wednesday, including the Cleveland Browns' 17-game slate.
What follows are five observations about the Browns' 2021 regular-season schedule, which will begin at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
While starting the season on the road against a team that has played in two straight Super Bowls and three consecutive AFC Championship Games is hardly a walk in the park, the front end of Cleveland's 2021 schedule is actually pretty favorable. Of the Browns' first eight games, five will be played at FirstEnergy Stadium, with just three of Cleveland's first eight opponents having qualified for the playoffs in 2020.
Altogether, the Browns will play nine home games this season -- an advantage in what will be the league's first 17-game schedule. Additionally, three of Cleveland's final five games will also be played at home, including a Week 18 regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Close to home
As a part of the Browns' home game-heavy start to the season, Cleveland will host the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football on Oct. 21. The placement of the Browns' primetime with the Broncos is especially advantageous, as it is sandwiched between a pair of home games vs. the Arizona Cardinals (Oct. 17) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Oct. 31).
That means that Cleveland's short week of preparation heading into its game against Denver won't include any travel. Additionally, the Browns will follow their three-game homestand by facing the Bengals on the road on Nov. 7, meaning that they will go four straight weeks without ever leaving the state of Ohio.
Just getting bye
Of the quirks on this year's schedule, one of the most notable for Cleveland is that the Browns will be facing the Baltimore Ravens in two consecutive games. After facing the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday Night Football on Nov. 28, Cleveland will enjoy its bye week on Dec. 5, before returning to Host the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 12.
While the outcome of the Browns' two-game series with Baltimore could have major implications in the race for the AFC North title, it would be tough to argue that the scheduling setup doesn't benefit Cleveland. In the same week that the Browns will be on their bye, the Ravens will be facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh, creating a potentially brutal three-game stretch for Baltimore within its own division.
For years, Browns' seasons were plagued by uncertainty at the quarterback position. But in 2021, Cleveland could find itself benefitting from the signal-caller situations of others.
Of the Browns' 14 different opponents, at least five have yet to settle who their starting quarterbacks will be, with uncertainty at the position currently swirling around the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Between the Texans, Bears, Patriots and Packers, Cleveland could conceivably be facing at least four quarterbacks in their first seasons as NFL starters, including three rookies.
Ultimately, determining the difficulty of the Browns' 2021 schedule could come down to whether Deshaun Watson is starting for Houston and/or Aaron Rodgers is starting for Green, as well as the development of Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and potentially Justin Fields and Mac Jones. All things considered, Cleveland figures to enter most games this season with a more stable quarterback situation than its opponent.
When it comes to the toughest three or four-game stretch on the Browns' 2021 schedule, there aren't many that stand out as obvious choices. Perhaps the most compelling is Week 14-17, when Cleveland will return from its bye for a pair of home games against the Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders before hitting the road to face the Packers on Christmas Day and the Steelers on Monday Night Football.
If Rodgers remains in Green Bay, Cleveland's contest against the Packers stands out as a potentially pivotal one -- at least as far as determining what the Browns' overall record will be. But while a lot can change between now and the start of the season, as currently constructed, Cleveland's 2021 schedule appears to double as a more than manageable path to a second consecutive postseason appearance.