Thoughts on the Browns' 2011 schedule, providing there is a 2011 season:
My initial reaction was that the Browns got a break by not having to face Pittsburgh and Baltimore until Dec. 4. In fact, they play the two division rivals four times in a span of five weeks to end the season. While that might seem like a brutal finish, it also seems to me that the Browns should have grown and developed their new offense and defense and perhaps developed some confidence by then.
Three of the first four games are at home, those three against winnable opponents, especially if Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer retires. The Browns should be competitive against the Bengals (4-12 in 2010), Miami Dolphins (7-9) and Tennessee Titans (6-10). The only team above .500 in the first four games is Indianapolis (10-6).
In fact, the Browns' schedule is so back-loaded that they face only one team that finished 2010 above .500 (the Colts) before Dec. 4.
The meat of the schedule is definitely the five-game finish, especially a string of three consecutive road trips -- Thursday, Dec. 8 at Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 18 at Arizona and Saturday, Dec. 24 at Baltimore. (So much for getting the Christmas cards addressed and the presents wrapped. Looks like the Christmas tree will have to go up before Thanksgiving again.)
Trips to Oakland and San Francisco come in a three-week span -- Oct. 16 at Oakland and Oct. 30 at San Francisco. (A perfect time to visit Northern California for Browns fans who are wine lovers. Or is that an oxymoron?)
The San Francisco trip is followed by one to Houston on Nov. 6, which concludes three on the road in four weeks.
The season ends at home on Jan. 1 against the Steelers, the Browns' first regular-season game played on New Year's Day. (It will either make for a quiet New Year's Eve for some fans, or they'd better put in for a sick day on Jan. 2 right now. How about opening the Muni lot on Dec. 31? It would probably be full by 6 p.m., no matter the cost. Maybe that night will be a booming one for downtown Cleveland hotels.)
Great time for a bye, Oct. 9. Just happens to be the weekend Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, et al return from their five-game suspensions for an Oct. 8 trip to Nebraska. (Providing, of course, that Tressel doesn't receive further sanctions from the NCAA.) No debating what will be the biggest story in Northeast Ohio that week, especially with the Browns on hiatus.