By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
The Browns’ schedule offers plenty of challenge, based on their opponents’ won-loss records in 2011.
But my initial impression as I study the slate of games announced by the NFL on Tuesday is that it doesn’t offer the additional hurdles of prolonged stretches of road games.
Of course, the two places with back-to-back road contests (Sept. 27 against Baltimore and Oct. 7 against the Giants, and Dec. 23 against Denver and Dec. 30 against Pittsburgh) certainly offer a high degree of difficulty.
Yet, there is a fair amount of balance in how the schedule comes together. The two longest trips – at Oakland, on Dec. 2, and at Denver, on Dec. 23 – are separated by a pair of home games: Dec. 9 against the Chiefs and Dec. 16 against the Redskins.
“When you look at the amount of travel we do, that’s the case,” coach Pat Shurmur said on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” Tuesday night. “But every opponent is tough.”
The bye arrives in Week 10, five weeks later than a year ago. That should work out reasonably well on the assumption that injuries begin piling up that time of year, and the Browns will have an extra week to allow players to heal.
Another interesting element is that the Browns will be opening the regular season against the Eagles, on Sept. 9, only two weeks after facing them in their third preseason game, on Aug. 24. There is little doubt that Pat Shurmur and the rest of the Browns’ coaching staff will have to approach that preseason game, usually treated as a tune-up for the regular season, a little differently than they normally would. You can expect some holding back of certain plays and formations … and you can expect Andy Reid (Shurmur’s former boss) and the rest of the Eagles’ coaching staff to do the same.
The Browns will have an opportunity to make a strong statement early on, because three of their first six games are against division opponents (Cincinnati on Sept. 16 and Oct. 14, and Baltimore on Sept. 27) and four are against 2011 playoff opponents (Cincinnati, Baltimore, and the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants).
Also, they face seven AFC opponents in their first nine games.
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