CLEVELAND, OH – The Cleveland Browns got no favors from the official 2012-13 NFL schedule release Tuesday evening.
After finishing 4-12 during the 2011-12 season with the NFL’s easiest schedule, the Browns would be rewarded with the third toughest strength of schedule of .527 based on last year’s opponents wins and losses.
Cleveland will face opponents from the NFC East (Philadelphia, New York , Washington, Dallas) AFC West (Kansas City, Denver, San Diego, Oakland) AFC East neighbor Buffalo at home, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on the road and AFC North rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh home and away.
In addition to facing both AFC Wild Card finalists—and division rivals—Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice, the Browns must also travel on the road to face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 5 and AFC West Division champion Denver Broncos and newly-acquired four-time NFL Most Valuable Player in quarterback Peyton Manning at Mile High.
Based on the current strength of schedule and pre-draft personnel are projected results.
Week 1 – Philadelphia Eagles (L)
Week 2 – @Cincinnati Bengals (L)
Week 3 – Buffalo Bills (L)
Week 4 – @Baltimore Ravens (L)
Week 5 – @New York Giants (W) Based on the Browns recent penchant of upsetting the defending Super Bowl champions the following year, (Steelers ‘09, Saints ‘10) and the Giants in 2008 on a nationally televised game on Monday Night Football, this is my upset special.
The Browns should be 0-4 at this point and heading into Gotham as a heavy underdog against a Giants team that will most likely be in the midst of it’s own brutal schedule—which is the toughest in the NFL with a strength of schedule of .547—has no Mario Manningham to take pressure off of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and no Brandon Jacobs to use in short yardage and goal-line situations, New York should be in the throes of the dreaded “Super Bowl hangover” this game may look like a easy win on paper, but if the Giants take the Browns too lightly, this Week 5 matchup may prove to be the ultimate trap game for the champions. Browns 21 Giants 17
Week 6 – Cincinnati Bengals (L)
Week 7 – @Indianapolis Colts (W) In one of two projected wins, The Browns defeat Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts handily, with the losses of center Jeff Saturday to Green Bay, tight end Jacob Tamme to Denver, wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez to both Washington and New England and a rookie coaching staff, Cleveland should easily earn it’s second win of 2012-13. Browns 24 Colts 10
Week 8 – San Diego Chargers (L)
Week 9 – Baltimore Ravens (L)
Week 10 – BYE
Week 11 – @Dallas Cowboys (L)
Week 12 – Pittsburgh Steelers (L)
Week 13 – @Oakland Raiders (L)
Week 14 – Kansas City Chiefs (L) In what may be the most anticipated game on the Browns schedule outside of the Week 12 matchup against arch-rival Pittsburgh, the Chiefs game is noted due to the return of former head coach Romeo Crennel, one-time civic hero in Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis and native Ohioan and former quarterback Brady Quinn to Cleveland Browns Stadium.
In what should be an interesting game due to the irony of Quinn and Hillis being traded for each other, and now on the same team together facing their mutual former team in Cleveland, look for Hillis to have a big game.
Week 15 – Washington Redskins (W) In their last home game of the 2012-12 season, the Browns go out in style with a win over the Robert Griffin III-led Redskins in what should be a cold, windy and snowy Cleveland Browns Stadium.
At this point in the season, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has been benched due to poor play and backup quarterback (insert either Brandon Weeden/Ryan Tannehill) has injected a new energy into the Browns stagnant offense. Cleveland is now merely playing for the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Browns 24 Redskins 13
Week 16 – @Denver Broncos (L)
Week 17 – @Pittsburgh Steelers (L)
To conclude, this is all hypothetical and based on the current strength of schedule and personnel, depending on what moves Cleveland makes in the draft by either selecting Alabama running back Trent Richardson to revitalize the running game, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who could come in and become a No.1 receiver in Cleveland and provide the Browns with a much-needed downfield weapon.
Cleveland could also choose to reach for Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill at No.4 or Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback in Weeden at No.22. 2012-13 projects to be a year full of struggle and will provide answers to the question of whether or not McCoy can lead the Browns.
While many want to see him succeed, Cleveland and it’s brutal schedule will be his un-doing in 2012-13 and look for Cleveland to finish—at best, 3-13—and select USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Look for a 2012 post-NFL Draft follow-up column with updated projections.
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