The glory of the NFL schedule is the fact that every game counts. With only 16 (soon to be 18) games on the slate, a team’s season can often be made or broken in the first few weeks. Such is the case for the 2010 Cleveland Browns, as their first two games are against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, a combined 7-25 in 2009. With a new front office and a fresh perspective, these new-look Browns have a legitimate chance to start off the Mike Holmgren era on the right foot with two wins. If the 2010 season is to be a success overall though, it is imperative that the Browns win those first two games.
After the Buccaneers and Chiefs, the Browns embark on a trip through a buzz saw, one that could turn the season south really quick. The next seven games are against teams that were a combined 69-43 in 2009:
- @ Baltimore Ravens
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Atlanta Falcons
- @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- @ New Orleans Saints
- New England Patriots
- New York Jets
Another great aspect of the NFL is the unpredictability of each season. It always seems to shake out that a team expected to contend will disappoint and another team will come out of nowhere and impress, like the Browns in 2007. I just don’t see any of those seven teams faltering, though. The Browns’ roster is improved, but it is still a few years away from being able to compete with these types of teams each and every week. That’s not to say that the Browns won’t steal a game in there, but this is quite the uphill battle. Thus, the importance of the first two games.
You also have to consider head coach Eric Mangini’s job security. Some thought he was lucky to even be brought back for this season, so who knows how short the leash is. The Browns had to win the last four games of last season just to reach five wins, and I doubt anyone in Cleveland is willing to endure that routine of losing anymore, especially with Mike Holmgren running the show. Mangini should be able to keep his job if the Browns win six or seven games, but to add insult to injury, the Browns close out the season against their divisional opponents.
When you watch the Browns take on the Buccaneers on Sunday, you’ll obviously be cheering for a Week 1 victory. But when you consider the quality of the Browns’ future opponents, you might also be cheering for the Browns to salvage their entire season.