CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns, who went 7-10 last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year, won’t have to wait long to see how they stack up in the AFC North this year.
Three of the first four games (full schedule below) of the Browns schedule are against division foes, including the home opener against the AFC North champion Bengals Sept. 10, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh for a nationally televised Monday Night Football game on Sept. 18. Completing the division trifecta in those first four weeks is a home game in Week 4 against the Ravens on Oct. 1 — featuring visits from former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and former Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The Browns close their season the same way they begin: against the Bengals, but this time on the road with the date and time to be determined, as is the case for all Week 18 games. Kickoff times will be decided after Week 17.
“It’s certainly a unique way to start the season, but I think it’s really cool,” coach Kevin Stefanski, in a statement from the team, said of the AFC North-heavy start. “I think we have the best division in football — a bunch of great players and great coaches. We know each other so well and we’ve played each other so many times. It lends itself to a great rivalry, so to see the Bengals in Week 1, Steelers in Week 2 and Ravens in Week 4 means there’s no easing into this one.”
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The Browns open at Cleveland Browns Stadium — for the first time since 2019 — against the Bengals, who went 12-4 last season and lost to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. It features a marquee matchup of two elite quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and Joe Burrow, who finished sixth in the NFL with a 100.8 rating last season.
Oddly enough, Burrow — who lost to the Rams in Super Bowl LVI after the 2021 season — is 1-4 in the Battle of Ohio, and the Bengals have gone 2-8 against the Browns in their last 10 meetings. That could prove to be good news for the Browns, who are 2-21-1 in openers since 1999.
“Everybody loves schedule release day,” Stefanski said. “It’s fun to finally see when all the games are happening, and to open it up with the division champs in the Battle of Ohio in front of our fans is outstanding. I know our players, coaches and staff are excited to get going at home right away in the AFC North.”
The Browns initially only have two prime-time games on the schedule — Week 2 in Pittsburgh — and a Thursday Night Football game on Prime Video against Aaron Rodgers and the Jets on Dec. 28. But the Browns could end up with more night games if they prove worthy.
This season, flexible scheduling for Sunday night may be used twice between Weeks 5-10, and in the NFL’s discretion during Weeks 11-17. For Monday night games, it’s at the NFL’s discretion in Weeks 13-17. During those windows, the games initially scheduled for Sunday and Monday night are subject to change. Only Sunday afternoon games (or those listed as TBD) are eligible to be moved to Sunday night or Monday night.
Rodgers and his beefed up band of Jets receivers will be a tough out for the Browns, but they own Thursday Night Football. They’ve won their past seven Thursday night games at home, and their past five overall. They’re 8-2 all time on that weeknight. The game also features new Browns receiver Elijah Moore against the team that traded him to Cleveland this offseason.
“We love night games, and we love Thursday night games particularly when we’re at home,” Stefanski said. “It’s just such a cool time for our fans to get under the lights and make a huge difference in the game like they do. As competitors, you want to play in those games because you know the whole country’s watching.”
One less-than-ideal aspect of the schedule is that the Browns have their bye week in Week 5 right after that brutal stretch of three AFC North foes in the first four weeks. It means the Browns — if they reach their Super Bowl goals — could play 17 straight games after the bye.
“We like having the bye week where it is,” Stefanski said. “It’s going to be four really tough games to start, and then we’ll take a breather. Then, we’ll have a great opportunity in front of us with a home game against a very, very good 49ers team, and then we get on the road against some really good teams. That’s the meat of our schedule — being on the road and trying to find a way to win against really good opponents. That’s the competitive aspect of this I think our guys are excited about.”
The Browns host the 49ers – who went 13-4 last season and lost in the NFC Championship to the Eagles — after the bye, and then have back-to-back road games against the Colts and Seahawks. The Browns petitioned the NFL to put two of their long trips back to back so they could possibly spend the week out west, and the league obliged, sending them to Denver Nov. 26 and the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 3. In Denver, they’ll face new coach Sean Payton, who will try to get nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson back on track.
They also have two more AFC North games back to back, Nov. 12 against Baltimore and Nov. 19 at home against the Steelers, and Watson will return to Houston for a Christmas Eve game.
Cleveland’s own Jonathan Gannon, the Saint Ignatius grad and new head coach of the Cardinals, comes to town Nov. 5 in Week 9 with quarterback Kyler Murray, who should be recovered from his torn ACL by then.
Here are some other things to note about the 2023 schedule:
* It includes seven opponents that made the playoffs in 2022, including the Ravens and Bengals twice.
* It includes nine teams with winning records, including the Ravens and Bengals twice.
* Going by 2022 records, the Browns have the seventh-easiest strength of schedule: 131-154-2 for a .460 percentage.
* It includes four teams who won four or fewer games in 2022: Colts (3-13-1), Texans (3-13-1), Broncos (5-12), Bears (3-14) and Cardinals (4-13).
* It features several new head coaches in Indy’s Shane Steichen, Payton, Gannon and Houston’s DeMeco Ryans.
* The Browns could face several rookie quarterbacks in the Texans’ C.J. Stroud and the Colts’ Anthony Richardson.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 2023 SCHEDULE
WEEK DATE Opponent ET TV
PS1 Aug. 3 New York Jets (HOF Game) 8:00 PM NBC
PS2 TBD Washington Commanders TBD TBD
PS3 TBD at Philadelphia Eagles TBD TBD
PS4 TBD at Kansas City Chiefs TBD TBD
1 Sep. 10 Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 PM CBS
2 Sep. 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon) 8:15 PM ABC
3 Sep. 24 Tennessee Titans 1:00 PM CBS
4 Oct. 1 Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM CBS
6 Oct. 15 San Francisco 49ers 1:00 PM FOX
7 Oct. 22 at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 PM CBS
8 Oct. 29 at Seattle Seahawks 4:05 PM FOX
9 Nov. 5 Arizona Cardinals 1:00 PM CBS
10 Nov. 12 at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 PM FOX
11 Nov. 19 Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 PM CBS
12 Nov. 26 at Denver Broncos 4:05 PM FOX
13 Dec. 3 at Los Angeles Rams 4:25 PM FOX
14 Dec. 10 Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 PM CBS
15 TBD Chicago Bears TBD TBD
16 Dec. 24 at Houston Texans 1:00 PM CBS
17 Dec. 28 New York Jets (Thu) 8:15 PM Prime Video
18 TBD at Cincinnati Bengals TBD TBD*
* – Select prime-time games subject to change; Week 18 games TBD
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