The NFL may be devaluing the preseason in comparison to the regular season, shrinking the former by one game in favor of growing the latter by one, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t try to get everything they can out of every product they can conceivably broadcast.
It was announced recently that the NFL will be nationally televising 23 preseason games this August, the most in the league’s history. That’s 23 out of 39 total preseason games, a remarkable percentage, especially when you factor in the loss of 16 games with the removal of one preseason week.
And the Cleveland Browns will have each of their three preseason games be nationally televised this year, in a sign of their changing perception around the league. A team that used to struggle to get the national spotlight will feature in at least five primetime games during the 2021 season, as well as many evening games that receive a larger audience share.
The Browns, of course, recorded a winning record last season with an 11-5 finish. It was their first non-losing season since 2007, and while they did not win the division, it was enough to send them to the postseason for the first time since 2002, wherein they then managed to win their first postseason game since 1994.
Following a season full of ‘first since’ milestones, it’s clear that the prognosticators are predicting second helpings, so to speak, and are making sure to stack their schedule, knowing that viewers will want to tune in to one of the more buzzworthy teams in the NFL.
To their credit, there is valid reason to be optimistic about the Browns. They had a strong offense last season that has been fully retained from last season, and which should only continue to grow through finally having an ounce of stability, without the repetitive firings of coaches and departures of players.
They also made major investments at every level of their defense this offseason, not even counting the return of multiple starters from injury or opt-outs from a year ago. Arguably the only area of the team one could say at which they’ve regressed would be at defensive tackle, going from Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi to Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings, both of whom are also talented.
Add all this up, and you get yourself a marketable product. Casual fans of the NFL will likely receive more exposure to the Browns this year than at any time in quite a while. And, perhaps, they may actually finally have a team that can handle the spotlight.