Without further ado, here is the schedule that the Cleveland Browns will face in the 2012 season:
September 9: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
September 16: at Cincinnati Bengals
September 23: Buffalo Bills
September 27: at Baltimore Ravens
October 7: at New York Giants
October 14: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
October 21: at Indianapolis Colts
October 28: vs. San Diego Chargers
November 4: vs. Baltimore Ravens
November 11: Bye Week
November 18: at Dallas Cowboys
November 25: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
December 2: at Oakland Raiders
December 9: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
December 16: vs. Washington Redskins
December 23: at Denver Broncos
December 30: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Needless to say, this is clearly not a schedule friendly to a team who is struggling to adjust to a new offensive scheme and to develop young talent. Unlike last season, when the Browns had several games against the weaker teams in the NFL, the Browns only have three games in which they can be viewed as having a serious chance to win.
Week 1: Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Stadium
Once the Eagles learned how to fuse all of the talent that they accumulated in the offseason together into a cohesive team, they ended last season with a four-game winning streak. The Eagles will head into Cleveland looking to begin the 2012 season on a strong note and to finally live up to their full potential. Beginning the season with a matchup against the Eagles will be a tough way to start the season for the Browns, who will struggle against an Eagles team that is talented on both sides of the ball.
Week 2: Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium
Last year, the Browns gave their AFC North rivals two very close games that were not decided until late in the fourth quarter. Expect this season’s games to be no different. The Bengals will have a great shot to win if BenJarvus Green-Ellis is able to replicate the dominating performances that the now-departed Cedric Benson ripped off against a porous Browns run defense last season. The Bengals will most likely win this game, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if the Browns pulled off the upset.
Week 3: Cleveland Browns vs. Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Stadium
If the Browns intend to win a game during the month of September, this is their best chance for a win. The Bills and Browns have played a number of close games in recent seasons, and this game will most likely be no different. Much of the Bills’ success in this game will hinge on whether Stevie Johnson can escape from the lockdown defense of Joe Haden and whether the Browns can keep the newly acquired Mario Williams away from whomever is playing quarterback from the Browns. If the Browns win these matchups, they will have a great chance to win.
Week 4: Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium
The Browns will travel to Baltimore to match up against the Ravens in the Browns’ only primetime game this season. The Ravens are a dominant team, and this will most likely be a difficult game for the Browns to win in front of a rowdy Ravens home crowd. The Ravens’ defensive talent and versatility on offense will allow them to cruise to an easy victory.
Week 5: Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants at MetLife Stadium
Life only gets more difficult for the Browns as they travel to New York to battle the Super Bowl champion Giants. The Browns were one of the NFL’s best teams against the pass last season, and they will need their defensive backs to replicate last season’s success if they intend to stop the Giants’ high-powered passing attack. Although this may not appear to be a competitive game on paper, this game could be closer than many fans believe it will be if the Browns can slow down the Giants’ passing game. When these teams last met during the regular season in 2008, a struggling Browns squad defeated a defending Super Bowl champion Giants team in front of a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football. Will history repeat itself? Possibly. That’s the beauty of the NFL!
Week 6: Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium
The Browns and Bengals will be squaring off for the second time in the 2012 season when they clash in October at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The experience obtained by the Browns’ rookies and young players could tilt this game slightly in the Browns’ favor. However, if the Bengals are able to improve from last season’s performance, this could easily be another loss for the Browns. The Browns will most likely win one game against the Bengals this season, and this is a better possibility for a victory.
Week 7: Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium
This game is a sight for sore eyes on the Browns’ schedule. If there is one game on the schedule that appears to be a very winnable game for the Browns, this is it. The Colts experienced a massive roster turnover in the offseason, losing one of the best players in NFL history in Peyton Manning as well as other key players such as Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, and other longtime Colts. The Colts currently lack depth and talent at several key positions and they are expected to struggle this season. Although the Browns are also in a rebuilding process, they are farther along the rebuilding spectrum than the Colts, and the Browns should be able to win this game.
Week 8: Cleveland Browns vs. San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Stadium
The Chargers will head east to face the Browns in a game that could turn out to be a close game if the Browns are able to slow down the Chargers’ powerful offense. Although the Chargers lost talented wide receiver Vincent Jackson in the offseason, they will still head into the 2012 with an abundance of talent on offense, including Pro Bowlers Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers.
These teams last met in 2009, and the Chargers fought off a furious Browns rally in the fourth quarter to escape with a 30-23 victory. The effects of the long flight to Cleveland and the major personnel losses suffered by the Chargers in the offseason could combine to make this game closer than anticipated.
Week 9: Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium
The Browns and Ravens will square off for the second time during the 2012 season at Cleveland Browns Stadium. This will be another tough game for the Browns, who will hang tough for much of the game but ultimately wind up with another close loss to their hated AFC North rivals.
Week 10: Bye Week
One positive aspect of the Browns’ 2012 schedule is that the bye week is scheduled for the middle of the season. By this time, injuries mount and rookies tend to be hitting the infamous “rookie wall”, and this break will hopefully give the Browns time to rest and regain their focus for the remainder of the season.
Week 11: Cleveland Browns vs. Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns Stadium
The Browns return from their bye week to face the Cowboys at home. This game will mark the return of Rob Ryan to Cleveland. Ryan served as the Browns’ defensive coordinator during the 2009 and 2010 seasons and was not retained to serve on Pat Shurmur’s coaching staff. By this point in the season, the swirling winds that descend upon the Cleveland shoreline in the fall and winter could slow down Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ potent passing attack. For the Browns to keep this game close, the offensive line will need to keep DeMarcus Ware away from the quarterback. The Cowboys have had a great deal of turnover on defense in the offseason, but Ryan will have them playing as a cohesive unit by this point in the season. The Cowboys will most likely win this game, but it won’t be a blowout.
Week 12: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium
Although the Browns\Steelers rivalry has been largely dominated by the Steelers since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the intensity level between these two teams runs high whenever they take the field. Last season, the Browns and Steelers played two closely fought contests that were not decided until the final minutes of each game. Expect much of the same next season. This game will be the culmination of a brutal three-game stretch against teams who are expected to make the playoffs in 2012. This won’t be a cakewalk for the Steelers, but they should be able to pull off a win in this game.
Week 13: Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum
By this time next season, Carson Palmer will most likely be playing at the level at which the Raiders expected him to play when they gave up a king’s ransom to acquire him last season. The Browns will need to shut down Palmer, contain the Raiders’ speedy receiving corps, and limit Darren McFadden if they intend to keep this game close. The Raiders’ depth at cornerback is lacking, and the Browns could pull off a win in this game if they are able to move the ball through the air. However, if Palmer is healthy and playing at his usual level, the Raiders will most likely be able to win what should be a close game.
Week 14: Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Stadium
Expect the storylines surrounding this game to center around the return of Peyton Hillis and Romeo Crennel to their old stomping grounds. Hillis had one magical season and one season to forget for the Browns, who allowed him to leave as a free agent after the end of last season. Crennel served as the Browns’ head coach from 2006-2008 and was named the Chiefs’ head coach after he was successful in his stint as the Chiefs’ interim head coach last season. If Joe Haden can shut down Dwayne Bowe and the Browns can keep Jamaal Charles from having the type of dominant performance that he had against them in 2009, the Browns could pull off a win in this game. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has been inconsistent during his tenure with the Chiefs, and the Browns’ talented pass defense could cause problems for a depth-challenged Chiefs receiving corps. This game could go either way.
Week 15: Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns Stadium
The Browns will most likely face off against Robert Griffin III—the quarterback that they had attempted to obtain in the offseason—when the Redskins travel to Cleveland for the Browns’ last home game of the season. The largest factor leading to the Redskins’ 5-11 record during the 2011 season was instability at the quarterback position, and the expected arrival of Griffin in the 2012 NFL Draft will be a big step towards addressing this need. If Griffin struggles to adjust to the NFL, this will be a winnable game for the Browns. However, if Griffin lives up to the lofty expectations that have been created for him, the Browns could easily end the season with a loss.
Week 16: Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
The Broncos’ acquisition of Peyton Manning in the offseason instantly helped them become a serious playoff contender. Unlike last season, when the Broncos stumbled into the playoffs with Tim Tebow behind center, the Broncos are now expected to be the dominant team in the AFC West. This dominance could work in the Browns’ favor if the Broncos have clinched the AFC West title by this time and the Broncos opt to rest Manning or play him for only part of the game. However, if Manning is healthy and plays for the entire game, this could easily be another defeat for the Browns. Even if Manning doesn’t play for the entire game, the Broncos’ stalwart defense could easily keep this game close and pose problems for the Browns’ offense.
Week 17: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field
For the third straight season, the Browns and Steelers will close their respective seasons by squaring off in a matchup that will add yet another chapter to their storied rivalry. By this time, the Steelers’ playoff fate could be decided, and it is possible that the Steelers may opt to rest the injury-prone Roethlisberger for much of this game. Last season, the Browns and Steelers ended their seasons with an intense matchup that was not decided until Seneca Wallace’s pass fell to the turf with no time remaining in the fourth quarter, and a proud Browns squad will seek to end their season on a high note with a hard-fought performance against their rivals.
Best Case Scenario For The Browns in 2012: 7-9
Worst Case Scenario For The Browns in 2012: 2-14