The Browns are guaranteed just two prime-time games next season, but both matchups should be must-see TV because they will be against AFC North opponents.
After the Browns open the 2022 season on the road against the Carolina Panthers (1 pm Sept. 11) and at home versus the New York Jets (1 pm Sept. 18), they’ll host the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:15 pm Sept. 22 for a “Thursday Night Football” showdown broadcast on Amazon Prime Video.
The Browns’ other prime-time game will be a Week 8 appearance on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” against the defending AFC champions Cincinnati Bengals at 8:15 pm Oct. 31 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Our players love to play under the lights, and I know our fans love to be loud under the lights,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a news release distributed by the team in conjunction with the NFL’s schedule release. “To get the Steelers on ‘Thursday Night Football’ and then get the Bengals on ‘Monday Night Football,’ I know those will be unbelievable atmospheres to watch a ball game.”
The Browns didn’t play their first AFC North game until Halloween in 2021, when they entered the season with Super Bowl expectations but disappointed en route to a record of 8-9. This year, they’ll have three divisional games in the books by the end of Oct. 31 – The Steelers (Sept. 22), at the Baltimore Ravens (Week 7, 1 pm Oct. 23) and the defending division champion Bengals (Oct. 31).
Possible Deshaun Watson suspension hangs over Browns schedule
The possibility of a suspension hanging over the head of new Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson and the club’s regression last year from a 2020 playoff berth point to reasons for just two prime-time games. Schedule releases in recent years had the Browns with four prime-time games in 2019, two in 2020 and three in 2021.
There is a chance the Browns could add prime-time games late next season, though, and the more Watson plays, the better chance the Browns will have to be relevant down the stretch.
Acquired in a historic trade with the Houston Texans on March 18, Watson is facing 22 active civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage appointments. Although two Texas grand juries combined to decline to indict Watson on 10 criminal complaints in March, he could be suspended by the NFL under its personal conduct policy.
It’s unclear whether former US District Court Judge Sue Robinson, a disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, would render a decision on a suspension before the civil lawsuits are resolved. That could take until at least 2023 because attorneys for Watson and the plaintiffs have agreed to avoid trial from Aug. 1 to March 1, and the player has said he does not intend to settle the cases.
In the event of a Watson suspension next season, Jacoby Brissett would start at quarterback for the Browns.
The six-page personal conduct policy states, “sexual assault involving physical force or committed against someone incapable of giving consent, a first violation will subject the violator to a baseline suspension without pay of six games, with possible upward or downward adjustments based on any. aggravating or mitigating factors. ”
As long as Watson were available to play for the Browns in Week 13, his return to Houston to face the Texans at 1 pm Dec. 4 would be a national story.
The NFL could flex Browns into more prime-time games
The potential for more prime-time appearances exists due to the possibility of flexed games and two weekends featuring undecided dates and times.
The NFL has yet to determine whether the Browns will host the Ravens on Dec. 17 or Dec. 18 in Week 15. Three of five designated games will be played on Saturday and the other two on Sunday. The dates and start times for those matchups will be determined and announced sometime during the season.
There is a similar setup for the Browns’ regular-season finale in Pittsburgh. The Browns and Steelers will end their schedule against each other for the 10th time in 15 seasons. The game will be held either Jan. 7 or 8. In Week 18, two games will be played on Saturday (4:30 pm and 8:15 pm) with others on Sunday afternoon (1 pm and 4:25 pm) and one on Sunday night (8:20 pm) ) Dates and times for those matchups will be determined and announced following the conclusion of Week 17.
Aside from the matchups with mystery times, the two prime-time showdowns and a Christmas Eve meeting in Cleveland with the New Orleans Saints (1 pm Saturday), the other 12 Browns games are set for 1 pm on Sundays.
Browns’ strength of schedule near the middle in the NFL
Based on their opponents’ records from last season, the Browns are tied with the Jets for the 17th-toughest schedule in 2022. Their opponents went a combined 142-145-2 last season for a winning percentage of .495.
Five 2021 playoff teams are on the Browns’ schedule – the Steelers (Weeks 3 and 18), New England Patriots (Week 6, Oct. 16 in Cleveland), Bengals (Weeks 8 and 14), Buffalo Bills (Week 11, Nov.). 20 in New York) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 12, Nov. 27 in Cleveland).
The Browns figure to have a measuring-stick stretch from Weeks 5-8 when they host the Los Angeles Chargers (9-8 last season) and the Patriots (10-7), visit the Ravens (8-9) and host the Bengals ( 10-7) preceding a Week 9 bye.
“You always like having the bye week smack in the middle,” Stefanski said. “We’ll play eight games, then take a break and play nine games. I think there’s benefits to having it in the middle of the season. “
The Browns will have nine games on the road and eight at home. They will be at home for five of their first eight games and away for six of their final nine. Three of the Browns’ final five games will be in the AFC North.
“It’s always an exciting day when you get the schedule,” Stefanski said. “For months, we’ve known who were playing and where, but to see how it unfolds, where our bye week is and where our division opponents are is fun for our coaches. That first opponent is something you look at so you can start to work on their coordinators, understand what they’ve done and try and get a head start on that game. “
In the preseason, the Browns will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars (7 pm Aug. 12) and host the Philadelphia Eagles (1 pm Aug. 21) and Chicago Bears (7 pm Aug. 27). The Browns and Eagles will hold joint practices at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berea in the buildup to their exhibition game.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.
Browns 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: at Panthers, 1 pm / CBS
Sept. 18: Jets, 1 pm / CBS
Sept. 22: Steelers, 8:15 pm / Amazon Prime Video
Oct. 2: at Falcons, 1 pm / CBS
Oct. 9: Chargers, 1 pm / CBS
Oct. 16: Patriots, 1 pm / CBS
Oct. 23: at Ravens, 1 pm / CBS
Oct. 31: Bengals, 8:15 pm / ESPN
Nov. 6: Bye
Nov. 13: at Dolphins, 1 pm / CBS
Nov. 20: at Bills, 1 pm / CBS
Nov. 27: Buccaneers, 1 pm / FOX
Dec. 4: at Texans, 1 pm / CBS
Dec. 11: at Bengals, 1 pm / CBS
Dec. 17 or 18: Ravens – TBD / TBD
Dec. 24: Saints, 1 pm / CBS
Jan. 1: at Commanders, 1 pm / FOX
Jan 7 or 8: at Steelers, TBD / TBD
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns schedule 2022 features just two prime-time games