16 observations on the Cleveland Browns 2014 schedule
The Browns will head into the season with a new coach, a new philosophy and (possibly) a new quarterback.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the upcoming schedule with an observation or two about each team the Browns will face this year.
Week 1 at Pittsburgh: The last time the Browns opened the season on the road against the Steelers, they were led by a first-year, defensive-minded head coach. The result? A 51-0 beating of the Steelers to open the 1989 season.
Week 2 vs. New Orleans: Saints head coach Sean Payton currently has the highest winning percentage of any of the 16 head coaches in franchise history. And the Browns have not won a home opener in 10 years.
Week 3 vs. Baltimore: Ravens running back Ray Rice could be serving the final game of what is expected to be a three-game suspension (at the least) for knocking his then-fiancee unconscious. Of course, after rushing for just 660 yards and a 3.1 yards per carry average last season, it’s hard to know if that is a plus for the Browns or the Ravens.
Week 4 Bye: This is quite early for a bye week and normally would be cause for a bit of concern. But the coaching staff may be able to use it to the team’s advantage as they can review three weeks worth of game tape to figure out what is working and what is not, and possibly make a decision at the quarterback position.
Week 5 at Tennessee: The game against the Titans starts a stretch of four games out of five where the Browns will face an inferior quarterback, starting with Tennessee’s Jake Locker, and rolling through Chad Henne, Matt Schaub and Josh McCown.
Week 6 at vs. Pittsburgh: Rookie running back Dri Archer returns to Ohio in a Steeler uniform looking to show the Browns that they made a mistake by not drafting him.
Week 7 at Jacksonville: The Jaguars selected quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the draft, but are prepared to have him sit for the season behind Chad Henne because Bortles needs work. And people are apparently OK with this.
Week 8 vs. Oakland: Since 2003, the Raiders have employed seven head coaches who have gone a combined 53-123. By comparison, the Browns are 56-120 over that same timespan. So someone always has it worse than you.
Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay: In Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, the Buccaneers will roll out two wide receivers who are 6-foot-5, which should make for an interesting day for Browns cornerbacks Joe Haden (5-11) and Justin Gilbert (6-0).
Week 10 at Cincinnati: The Bengals still have Andy Dalton at quarterback.
Week 11 vs. Houston: The Texans are prepared to roll this season with Ryan Fitzpatrick (has never posted a winning record), rookie Tom Savage and Case Keenum at quarterback this year. We’re having flashbacks to the Browns trio of Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy.
Week 12 at Atlanta: The Falcons’ running game was almost as bad as the Browns last season, which is saying a lot, as Steven Jackson led the team with just 543 rushing yards and a 3.5 yards per carry average. Jackson is entering his 11th season this year, and it seems unlikely that he will suddenly rediscover his youth this season.
Week 13 at Buffalo: The Bills lost their best player, linebacker Kiko Alonso, for the year with a torn ACL, still have questions at the quarterback position, and don’t know who their next owner will be (or where the team will be located). And the Browns hold Buffalo’s No. 1 pick in next year’s draft thanks to a draft-day trade. In the book Collision Low Crossers, there is a part where then-Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine lamented following a loss to Baltimore that the Jets offensive coaches didn’t listen to the former Baltimore coaches on the staff about the Ravens players. The Browns won’t be repeating that mistake against the Bills, where Pettine was defensive coordinator last season.
Week 14 vs. Indianapolis: Poor interior line play has led to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to be sacked 73 times in his first two seasons. And the Colts are planning to make Trent Richardson their starting running back.
Week 15 vs. Cincinnati: Andy Dalton is probably still going to be the Bengals quarterback.
Week 16 at Carolina: The Panthers lost their four top wide receivers from 2013 – Steve Smith to Baltimore, Brandon LaFell to New England, Ted Ginn Jr. to Arizona and Domenik Hixon (who tore his ACL this week) to Chicago – and replaced them with No. 1 draft pick Kelvin Benjamin, and free agents Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood. They join returning players Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King – who collectively have zero pass receptions as NFL receivers.
Week 17 vs. Baltimore: The Ravens allowed 48 sacks last season, tied for fourth-most in the league. Baltimore did little to nothing in the off season to address its offensive line problems, which could be a good sign for the Browns defense, but a bad one for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
It all looks easy sitting here near the end of July. Of course, much will change in the ensuing weeks but, as always, you have to like the Browns chances.
Forty-nine days to go.