CLEVELAND — With quarterback Baker Mayfield emerging as the emotional and on-field leader for the Cleveland Browns during the 2018 season and the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in an offseason trade with the New York Giants, the eyes of the football world are on Northeast Ohio.
And the Browns better get used to that feeling because the 2019 schedule, which was released by the National Football League Wednesday night, is full of prime-time action, as half of their regular-season games start at 4:05 or later on the East Coast.
Of those eight games, four will be evening affairs, including two on Monday Night Football (Week 2 at New York Jets, Week 5 at San Francisco 49ers), a Thursday Night Football appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 and an early-season matchup against the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football in Week 3.
It is the first time the Browns have been featured in multiple prime-time games in the same season since 2015, when they battled the Cincinnati Bengals on the road on Thursday Night Football on November 5, and on November 30, hosted the Baltimore Ravens in a Week 12 Monday Night Football matchup.
Also, it is the first time the Browns will be featured on multiple Monday Night Football games in the same season since 2008. During that 2008 season, the Browns played three Monday games, beating both the New York Giants (October 13) and Buffalo Bills (November 17) before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles (December 15).
That kind of exposure does not come without better players joining the organization and making a difference under the guidance of general manager John Dorsey.
No rookie in the near 100-year history of the NFL has thrown more touchdowns passes than Mayfield.
Mayfield broke the NFL record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the Jets, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Under the direction of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, the interim offensive coordinator for the second half of the 2018 season, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Mayfield averaged 281.75 passing yards and 2.375 touchdown throws per game with Kitchens calling the plays.
Although Mayfield does not get official credit for the victory over the Jets because he came on in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, the first-year quarterback guided the Browns to seven wins and the greatest single-year turnaround in franchise history.
Then, there is the acquisition of Beckham Jr.
Over 59 regular-season games, including 56 starts, in five years with the Giants, Beckham Jr. turned 622 targets into 390 receptions for 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham Jr. averaged 92.8 yards per game, including a league-best 108.8 during the 2014 season.
Beckham Jr. has put four 1,000-yard and three double-digit touchdown seasons on his resume since being selected with a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Last season, Beckham Jr. turned in a 77-catch, 1,052-yard, six-touchdown effort for the Giants.
Beckham Jr. was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2014-2016) and two-time Second Team All-Pro honoree (2015-2016) during his five years with the Giants.