Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.
Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule:
Week 1: Philadelphia
Week 2: at Cincinnati
Week 3: Buffalo
Week 4: at Baltimore
Week 5: at New York Giants
Week 6: Cincinnati
Week 7: at Indianapolis
Week 8: San Diego
Week 9: Baltimore
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Dallas
Week 12: Pittsburgh
Week 13: at Oakland
Week 14: Kansas City
Week 15: Washington
Week 16: at Denver
Week 17: at Pittsburgh
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- The Cleveland Browns have easily the toughest divisional schedule in the AFC. This, of course, is due in large part to the division in which they reside. The AFC North has three potential playoff teams and two perennial Super Bowl contenders. And since the Browns don’t get to face the, uh, Browns twice every year, it makes their AFC North schedule harder than any other team’s in the division. To make matters worse, the North round-robin begins with two road games within the first four weeks of the season. The only comfort for the Dawg Pound is that, following trips to Baltimore and Cincy, three of the final four games within the North will be played on the banks of Lake Erie.
- Interestingly enough, by game nine, the Browns will have played the Bengals and the Ravens twice. And by game 11, only a road trip to the hated Steelers in the season finale will remain on the divisional slate.
- Two rookies will be lined up behind the center this fall as quarterback Brandon Weeden and tailback Trent Richardson will usher in a new era of Browns football. But Pat Shurmur shouldn’t expect too much from the first-round duo right out of the gate. The first six games are against potentially elite-level defenses. The Giants, Ravens and Bengals units speak for themselves but the Eagles' and Bills' front-sevens should be dramatically improved in 2012. Best of luck rooks.
- The Browns will have the unfortunate task of battling the NFC East in crossover play this season as there are no easy outs and three potential playoffs teams residing in the East. Washington at home is a potential win for a team that claimed victory only four times a year ago. But road trips to New Jersey to square-off against the defending champion Giants and a jaunt down to the biggest football stadium in the world to take on the Cowboys loom extremely large. Additionally, facing the Eagles at home on opening weekend is interesting because the two teams will have played two weeks earlier in the third, and most normal looking, preseason game. There will be plenty of familiarity between these coaching staffs when the season kicks off in Browns Stadium.
- The Browns will face the AFC West this fall in intra-conference action. Strangely enough, three of the four contests will take place in a four-week period of time from Week 13 to Week 16. Cross-country trips to Oakland and Denver sandwich a pair of home games against Kansas City and the Redskins. The Chargers come calling in Week 8.
- There isn’t anything special about the home-road splits for the Browns in 2012. Three of the first five are on the road while, more depressingly, the final two games of the year will be on the road against Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. This does mean, however, that the heart of the 2012 season will be filled with home games — six in nine games to be exact.
- For a team trying desperately to win more than five games for the first time since 2007, the two floating games offer some comfort. A home game against the Bills in Week 3 is a winnable game and a road trip to Indianapolis in Week 7 is even easier. Nothing is a sure thing with Cleveland, but these are two games Shurmur and company likely have circled as opportunities.
- The bye week feels like it is perfectly situated to best aid the Browns' rebuilding project in 2012. Following two brutal home games against the Chargers and Ravens, Cleveland will get some time to recoup before traveling to Big D and then hosting rival Pittsburgh. With nine games before and seven after, the off-week should give this team a halftime break that many other teams won’t enjoy.
Fantasy Focus: Trent Richardson is creeping into the back-end of the first round, and while I love his raw talents and upside long term, there will be plenty of growing pains early in his rookie year. The same goes for Weeden too. See the first six games of the season about six paragraphs up from here.
2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers