In 2020, the Cleveland Browns finished in third place in the very competitive AFC North with an 11-5 record. This was good enough for them to qualify as a wildcard team in the AFC playoffs.
In the playoffs, the Browns sleighed some demons as they finally took down the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in the “steel city” in the AFC Wildcard Round. Unfortunately, the Browns’ magic carpet ride came to an end at the hands of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the then-defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in KC in the AFC Divisional Round.
Then in 2021, the Browns once again finished in third place. But instead of going 11-5 like last season, Cleveland went 8-9. If it was just the normal 16 game schedule, their record probably would’ve been 8-8 (which would’ve been right at .500). But the league pulled the trigger on the 17th game this season, thus 8-9 (a game under .500).
Either way though, the Browns missed the playoffs. Thus meeting the expectation of not meeting expectations.
Before the 2021 season began, I asked the question: Which opponent will bring the most opposing fans to the Dawg Pound? This is a difficult question to answer because it didn’t seem like there were many opposing fans for any of the nine home games. But if I had to give an answer, it would probably be the Chicago Bears from Week 3.
In 2021, the Browns had a very interesting home-and-away schedule.
The home opponents were as follows: the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals (the 17th game), Denver Broncos (on Thursday Night Football), Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders (kind of on Monday Night Football), and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The away opponents were as follows: the Kansas City Chiefs (a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional Round), Minnesota Vikings (revenge game for HC Kevin Stefanski), Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens (on Sunday Night Football), Green Bay Packers (on Christmas), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (on Monday Night Football and Big Ben’s farewell game).
In 2021, the AFC North went against their NFC counterparts, the NFC North, along with the AFC West. Since Cleveland finished in third place, they hosted the Houston Texans (who finished in third in the AFC South) and visited the New England Patriots (who finished in third in the AFC East). The 17th game for the Browns was hosting the Arizona Cardinals out of the NFC West as AZ finished in third place as well.
But 2021 is now in the rearview mirror and we need to start looking ahead to 2022. After that crazy finish to Sunday Night Football in Las Vegas between the Chargers and the Raiders, the home and away opponents for the 2022 season are officially set for Cleveland.
Of course, the Browns will play against their fellow division foes. This means that they will both host and visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens (who I think are the biggest rival to the Browns presently), and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Then the AFC North will play the AFC East. This means that Cleveland will be visiting western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills. They’ll also be heading down to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick will be bringing his New England Patriots to FirstEnergy Stadium. The New York Jets will also be visiting the Dawg Pound.
The AFC North will go against the NFC South. As this pertains to Cleveland, the GOAT Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will visit the Dawg Pound. Given what the Browns do this offseason, this game could potentially be put into the Sunday Night Football slot or the Monday Night Football slot.
Hopefully, this game will not be placed in the Thursday Night Football slot (the NFL needs to get rid of Thursday Night Football). But my expectation is that this game will at least be in the 4:00 window.
The New Orleans Saints will also be visiting Cleveland, which is almost guaranteed to be an exciting game. The past couple of games between New Orleans and Cleveland have been so much fun to watch and come right down to the wire. Remember Week 2 down in the “Big Easy” back in 2018? Sure the Browns lost that game, but it was exciting right down to the final second. More likely than not, this will be a 1:00 game. However, I would love it if Saints at Browns were to be put into primetime.
For the two road games against the NFC South, the Browns will be very warm. That’s because they will be heading to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers. Then they will head down to Atlanta, Georgia (which appears to be the state of champions this year) to take on the Atlanta Falcons.
The Browns need three more games to round out their schedule, so where are they going to come from? As stated earlier, the Cleveland Browns finished in third place in the AFC North. This means that they’ll be hosting Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers as LA finished in third place in the AFC West. We can only hope that we get as exciting of a game this upcoming season as we did this past season.
The third-place finish also means that the Browns will be heading down to the space city to take on the Houston Texans who finished in third place in the AFC South. Houston was the Browns’ opponent for the home opener in Week 2. If Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn’t get injured, Cleveland might’ve started the season 0-2.
But there’s one more game that needs to be added and it’s Game 17. Last season, the 17th game brought Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals to the Dawg Pound. This season, the 17th game will send Cleveland to Maryland for a second time as they’ll be at FedEx Field to take on the Washington Football Team (they’re unveiling their new name on February 2). The last time Cleveland played at Washington was on Sunday, October 2, 2016. Washington won 31-20. However, Cleveland exacted a little bit of revenge by defeating the Football Team in the Dawg Pound on Sunday, September 27, 2020, by a score of 34-20.
The 2022 schedule doesn’t look extremely difficult, but it doesn’t look extremely easy either. It looks to be somewhere in the middle. Based on who the opponents are for next season, my prediction is that the Browns will begin the season on the road in Charlotte, North Carolina at Bank Of America Stadium against the Carolina Panthers.
I also predict that the Browns home opener won’t be until Week 3 and that they’ll be welcoming Joe Burrow and the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals to town. It’s going to be very exciting if I got either of those predictions right.
Let’s put this disappointing 2021 season behind us and look ahead to 2022. I look forward to welcoming opposing fans/YouTubers/bloggers into my YouTube show, The SportsRoom TalkShow, to preview the game for that week. I hope to do a video collaboration for every game on the Browns schedule.
Here’s to 2022!