Analyzing teams’ schedules across the “Big 4” (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) is one of my favorite parts of the sports world. Trying to decide if road trips make sense or not for certain teams and if they don’t, how would I modify them? If I could create a schedule, who would that schedule be for? What would that schedule look like?
With the 2022 NFL schedule being released on Thursday night, I decided to create my dream schedule for the Cleveland Browns.
Week 1: At Miami Dolphins
Week 2: Vs New York Jets
Week 3: Vs New Orleans Saints
Week 4: At Baltimore Ravens
Opening the season in Miami just screams NFL. Both teams made trades that sent shockwaves through the rest of the league as the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson and the Dolphins acquired Tyreek Hill. There is also the storyline about how the Dolphins discussed the idea of trading for Watson over the past few seasons.
The Jets appear to be moving in the right direction, however, they’re not a playoff contender yet. Thus, they felt like the most logical team to have the Browns face in their home opener. This feels similar to last season when the Browns had a high-profile season opener against the Chiefs in Kansas City and then came home to play the Houston Texans. The Browns open the season with a high-profile matchup against the Dolphins so having the home opener against the Jets feels right.
The past few times the Browns and Saints have matched up, it’s been early in the season. In both 2014 and 2018 (the Browns could’ve won that game in New Orleans had it not been for Zane Gonzalez), they played each other in Week 2. So, why not have the Browns and Saints continue to play each other early in the season? The Saints were also one of the teams who were pursuing Deshaun Watson, so that could potentially play a factor despite this game being in Cleveland and not in the bayou.
One could make the argument the Ravens are the biggest rival for the Browns. Over the past few seasons, the Ravens and Browns have put on some classics. The 47-42 game from Week 14 in 2020 , and the 26-24 game from Week 17 in 2018 were two examples of that. Sure, the Browns lost both those games, but they were still really exciting to watch, so why not give both fanbases an early look at the 2022 version of the rivalry?
Week 5: At Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: Vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday Night Football)
Week 7: At Carolina Panthers
Week 8: At Cincinnati Bengals
In the city of Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the most hated team. When it’s Pittsburgh week, there seems to be extra energy throughout the city. With Big Ben Roethlisberger retiring, it certainly changes the dynamics of the matchup. Does that mean the game has lost its edge? Not necessarily. It just means that the next chapter has to be written by the new characters.
So, the Browns believe they are a Super Bowl-caliber team, huh?! If that is indeed the case, then perhaps we are getting a Super Bowl 57 preview in a Week 6 primetime matchup. “The GOAT” Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be coming to town for a Monday Night Football showdown. Brady led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2020, the second in Buccaneers history and the first since 2002. In the process, Tampa became the first team to play in their home stadium for the Super Bowl. Given the quarterbacks and the offenses involved, expect this game to be in the high-20s to low-30s.
After three consecutive high-profile games and the “Battle of Ohio” looming the following week, this Week 7 game against the Carolina Panthers feels like it could be a letdown for the Browns. However, Cleveland cannot overlook Carolina going into this matchup. It will be a fascinating running back duel between Nick Chubb and Christian McCaffrey.
In Week 8, the Browns will be going against a second consecutive team that has a cat nickname. It just so happens that this cat team was a few minutes away from winning Super Bowl 56. Oh yeah, they’re also the Browns' in-state and division rival. The Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow has yet to defeat the Browns in his career since being drafted in 2020. Will that change in Week 8 of the 2022 season?
Week 9: At Buffalo Bills (Sunday Night Football)
This is such an intriguing matchup to end the first half of the season for the Browns. Could we see these two teams go at it again come postseason time? That feels like a very real possibility. Cleveland and Buffalo are two of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL. The quarterback matchup is fantastic as Deshaun Watson goes against Josh Allen. The stylistic matchup between these two offenses makes this game that much more intriguing. Buffalo likes to throw the ball over the yard and they don’t really a run game. Whereas, Cleveland likes to slow the game down, run the ball, and build the passing game off of that. Given the potential implications of this game, plus a few other factors, it makes sense for the Browns and Bills to meet in the middle of the season and for it to be on Sunday Night Football.
Week 10: BYE Week
Making Week 10 the bye week made the most sense because it divides the season roughly in half. In the first part of the season, the Browns will be playing nine games while in the second half, they will be playing eight games.
Week 11: Vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 12: Vs New England Patriots
Week 13: Vs Baltimore Ravens
Week 14: At Houston Texans
In Weeks 11-14, the Browns receive three consecutive home games. However, all three opponents feel they can compete for the postseason in the AFC.
The Steelers might be without Roethlisberger, but they’re still the Steelers. Even when you think Pittsburgh is down and out, the Steelers seem to find a way to hang around and make things interesting. They still have Mike Tomlin as their head coach, and they haven’t had a losing season since 2003. So the Browns cannot sleep on the Steelers in this game.
The last time the Browns defeated the Patriots was back in 2010. The two teams flipped playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021 as the Browns made it in 2020 and the Patriots made it in 2021. Both teams believe that they are contenders this season, so something is going to have to give in this matchup.
This Week 13 AFC North showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium could be extremely consequential. The Bengals will be right in the mix for the division title, however, I think the race is going to come down to the Ravens and Browns. If that is indeed the case, then this matchup could determine who wins the AFC North and who ends up as a Wild Card team. It’s also round two of Watson against Lamar Jackson and that has excitement written all over it.
When the Browns go down to the lonestar state to visit the Houston Texans in Week 14, the narrative writes itself. It’s Watson returning to Houston to play the Texans. Much like the Week 7 matchup against the Panthers, the Browns cannot sleep on the Texans. Any team can win on any given Sunday (or Thursday or Monday), so just because the Browns are projected to be the superior team, doesn’t mean they can take the Texans lightly.
Week 15: Vs Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday Night Football)
Week 16: At Washington Commanders
It’s an interesting two-game stretch that the Browns will be enduring in Weeks 15 and 16 in this mock schedule.
In Week 15, the Browns will be hosting Justin Herbert and the Chargers. The game between these two teams last season was fantastic, yet heartbreaking at the same time. Considering both teams are going to be competing for a playoff spot, it makes sense to schedule this game for later in the season and be in primetime. In theory, the Browns will be aided by the lack of warm weather in mid-December. Will that actually play a role? Maybe.
Coming off of a game that’s in primetime and potentially having serious playoff implications, the Browns will have to find a way to regulate themselves. In Week 16, Cleveland will go against the Commanders, who finished in third place in the NFC East last season. The Commanders are a weird team. They’re not a contender in the NFC, but they’re also not a bad team. The Commanders are stuck somewhere in the middle. That’s a dangerous team to be playing late in the season. Over the past couple of seasons, the Commanders have had a solid defense. Terry McLaurin has been a very good wide receiver for Washington, so the Browns will have their hands full. They cannot take the Commanders lightly, or they’ll get burned.
Week 17: At Atlanta Falcons
Week 18: Vs Cincinnati Bengals
To close out the season in Weeks 17 and 18, the Browns face their final NFC South opponent and their in-state AFC North division rival.
The Falcons are going to look different this season. Of all the changes that Atlanta has gone through, the biggest has to be that they replaced long-time signal-caller Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota. They also won’t have Calvin Ridley as he’s suspended due to gambling on games last season. This feels like a matchup that many fans are going to underestimate, however, I think this is going to be a lot of fun. You also have the storyline of the Falcons pursuing Deshaun Watson.
In Week 18, round 2 of the “Battle of Ohio” will commence. This time, it will take place at the Dawg Pound. Although I don’t think this game is going to be for the division title, there’s still going to be a lot on the line, as I believe rhis game will determine which teams get what seeds in the postseason. The AFC is as loaded as it has ever been. As a result, good teams are going to be