Cleveland Browns' schedule set up for December playoff push

Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Cleveland Browns.

Game-by-game prediction:

Browns reporter Pat McManamon is predicting an 11-5 finish:

Sept. 8: vs Tennessee, Win

Sept. 16 (Monday): at New York Jets, Win

Sept. 22 (Sunday night): vs. L.A. Rams, Loss

Sept. 29: at Baltimore, Win

Oct. 7 (Monday): at San Francisco, Loss

Oct. 13: vs. Seattle, Loss

Oct. 20: Bye

Oct. 27: at New England, Loss

Nov. 3: at Denver, Win

Nov. 10: vs. Buffalo, Win

Nov. 14 (Thursday): vs. Pittsburgh, Win

Nov. 24: vs. Miami, Win

Dec. 1: at Pittsburgh, Loss

Dec. 8: vs. Cincinnati, Win

Dec. 15: at Arizona, Win

Dec. 22: vs Baltimore, Win

Dec. 29: at Cincinnati, Win

Strength of schedule 23rd, .484


Odell Beckham Jr.'s first game with the Browns will be in Cleveland against Tennessee, a team the Browns should be favored to beat. But the most eye-opening reality of the 2019 schedule is that the NFL gave the Browns a December made for a playoff run. The Browns close against Cincinnati, at Arizona, Baltimore and at Cincinnati. Those three teams combined for 19 wins in 2018, and the Browns handled the Bengals in both games last season, winning both by a combined score of 61-38. If the Browns improve as the season goes on -- something good teams do -- and if they want to live up to the excitement generated by the arrival of Beckham and the development of Baker Mayfield, their success will come in how they close the season.

Challenging start

Though Tennessee is far from the most difficult opener -- the Titans were 9-7 last season -- the Browns do have a tough first few weeks. They play at New York on Monday night in Week 2 against a Jets team that has high hopes, return home for a short week to play the Rams’ powerful offense in Week 3, follow with the division champion Ravens and then travel for a Monday night game against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. A home game against Seattle and the trip to New England round out the first seven. Four of those first seven games are against 2018 playoff teams (including the Super Bowl champions), and two are against teams that figure to be much improved in 2019 (the Jets and 49ers).

Ready for prime time

The excitement over the Browns is reflected in the four prime-time games -- three in the first five weeks of the season. The Browns travel to play the Jets on Monday night in Week 2, face the Rams the following Sunday night in Week 3 and play at San Francisco on Monday night in Week 5. The final night game scheduled is Thursday against Pittsburgh on Nov. 14. If the Browns live up to expectations, they could be flexed into three more night games -- two late in the season (beginning Week 11) and the other in the finale, when any team’s game could be shifted. The Browns have not been on Sunday Night Football since Sept. 14, 2008. The last time they were on Monday Night Football was the infamous “kick-six” game Nov. 30, 2015, when the Browns saw a winning field goal attempt blocked by Baltimore and returned for a touchdown on the final play.