Don’t look now, but the hype train is officially pulling into Cleveland, Ohio. It seems as though even the schedule-makers for the NFL are jumping on the Cleveland Browns bandwagon, as they have awarded the team that has never won a division title in the two decades since they’ve been back in the league as of 1999 a total of four primetime games for 2019.
That’s a pretty significant number given that they only had two primetime games last season, one of those being on Thursday Night, and in fact in some recent seasons they haven’t had any. While every team is originally assigned at least one primetime game, the Browns have had their lone primetime game flexed out of that spot, most recently in 2017.
And in most years in recent seasons, they have had only one primetime game, with only a couple of exceptions here and there. I had to go all the way back to the 2008 season to find the last time the Browns played more than two games in prime time, and they somehow managed to have five such games that season, including three on Monday Night.
That came after the one year in which the Browns have actually been competent since returning to the NFL. During the 2007 season, they actually posted a winning record, going 10-6. While they did not win the division (the Pittsburgh Steelers did), they nearly reached the postseason that year—the only time ever for the ‘new’ Browns was in 2003.
They will, in fact, have two primetime games early in the season, in Weeks Two and Three, in games that figure to feature what the league is hoping to be prime matchups pitting young quarterbacks against one another.
That starts in Week Two with the New York Jets and Sam Darnold, the third-overall pick and the second quarterback taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, hosting the Browns and Baker Mayfield, who went first-overall last season and set a new rookie record with 27 touchdown passes thrown.
The following week—on a short week, as the Jets game is Monday—Cleveland will play host to the defending NFC Conference champions, the Los Angeles Rams, who are quarterbacked by Jared Goff, the first-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
And then it’s just two more weeks until their next dance under the lights when they have to travel all the way out west to pay a visit to Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers, yet another matchup of relatively young quarterbacks that the league is hoping will draw attention.
The Browns’ final primetime game scheduled for 2019 sees them host none other than the Steelers on Thursday Night in Week 11 for one of their five primetime contests. That game is part of a big three-week stretch for Pittsburgh in which they face the Browns twice and the Cincinnati Bengals once in a three-week span.