There’s nothing worse than playing the Cleveland Browns schedule game. To make bold proclamations about the Browns’ prospects in Week 10, in November, when they play the Lions, after their bye, and after eight equally unpredictable games on a grueling NFL schedule, is an attempt to understate the word “stupid.” And yet, here I am looking at the Browns’ schedule.
After years of following the Browns semi-professionally for WFNY, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about the unpredictability of the NFL schedule. I never try to proclaim I know what’s going to happen. That was at the center of the crater where our old weekly roundtable, “The Browns Will Win If…” lies dead and decomposing in its necessary grave. Across 50-plus professional athletes, an entire coaching staff, and the equal and opposite variables on the opposing side, predicting NFL games is dumb. Still, I’ve learned a few things that can work to apply a filter of sorts to the Browns schedule.
We already know that the Browns will be underdogs in most every game with the possible exception of a Week 5 home game against the New York Jets.1 Until proven otherwise, that makes a lot of sense. I also know from an old interview with Tony Dungy – and I happen to believe him – that you can only get your team up beyond their normal ability a few times per season. You’d like to think a professional coach could “rah-rah-rah” his way to a win every week, but it’s like a LeBron James triple-double. It’s possible every game, but it can’t possibly appear every night.
So, where can you look for a Browns victory or two? Here are a couple ideas.
Week 3 – at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts will be favored. The Colts should be favored. The Browns will be coming off two games against the Steelers and Ravens, and things might be looking bleak for the Browns. The Colts, on the road, in the dome, are far from an easy opponent. For the Browns, it could feel like a reprieve.
The Colts haven’t had the best stability, and even if Chuck Pagano is still at the helm, he always feels embattled. Again, there’s no reason to think that Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton won’t crush the Browns into oblivion. The 2016 Colts were 8-8 and to Cleveland fans that might as well be the Patriots‘ perfect season. Make no mistake though, an 8-8 team with Chuck Pagano at head coach is an opportunity in the NFL. It might be the Browns’ first solid opportunity to win in 2017.
Week 8 – Vikings at Browns in England
This game might be the biggest disaster of the season for the Browns. Take one of the youngest teams in the history of the NFL, that you’re conditioning to control variables and play with instinct, and without distraction, and put them in what amounts to an exhibition that counts. Put this exhibition in a different country in a different time zone. This is one of those Hue Jackson motivational opportunities, however.
He could play the “nobody believes in us” card, which is backed up by the fact that the NFL had no trouble giving away one of the team’s home games in October before the snowflakes are likely to fly. “Gentlemen, this game is not only an opportunity to show the world what you’ve got, but a chance to tell the NFL how you feel about their willingness to give away one of your eight home games!” I wouldn’t make a good motivational speaker in the NFL.
Week 16 – at Chicago Bears
The last game that I’m going to highlight here is Christmas Eve in Chicago against the Bears. This is one of the most mysterious matchups on the schedule. Will it be Mike Glennon vs. Cody Kessler? Could it be Mitch Trubisky vs. Deshone Kizer? Yep. It could be all of those. It also could be the last chance for the Browns to swipe a victory in a season with Steeler bookends. On New Year’s Eve, the Browns are scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh to play their Week 17 matchup. That puts extra potential and possibility for the Christmas Eve game, at least in my brain in the middle of July as I’m trying to look at the schedule and not pretend to be an expert about something that nobody could possibly have expertise.
And, just a reminder, that’s what I was looking to do today. I wanted to provide a little look at the Browns to try and discover a couple wins. So often over the past few years, I’ve spent my time just dwelling on all the negative potential for the team. Even as I expect the 2017 Cleveland Browns to be a four or five-win team max, it feels good to know there might actually be some forward progress this year.
Now, if the Browns could manage to win all three games that I discussed, I’ll revisit my thoughts and proclaim to be able to predict the future. I’ll be (even more) insufferable when and if that happens.
- I’m not going to discuss that one, as a result. [↩]