The Cleveland Browns enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020 that included the franchise’s first postseason victory since the 1994 season.
Now, the Browns are among the Super Bowl favorites in the AFC under second-year coach Kevin Stefanski. With that comes increased expectations around a core that includes Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns also had an active free agency to improve their defense.
How does that schedule look now? Here is a complete breakdown of the Cleveland Browns’ 2021 schedule, including dates and start times for all 17 games and our early prediction.
Cleveland Browns schedule 2021
The Browns open the season at Kansas City, a 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS. The rest of their schedule will be released tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Here are the opponents the Browns face in 2021:
- Home: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders, Broncos, Lions, Bears, Texans, Cardinals
- Away: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Chiefs, Chargers, Packers, Vikings, Patriots
Cleveland’s schedule features the NFC North and AFC West, but the Browns have just three matchups outside the division against playoff teams from 2020. Chicago and possibly Green Bay will have new starting quarterbacks, and the Browns will get tested out of the gate with a Week 1 matchup against Kansas City.
The home schedule is favorable, even if it lacks a marquee game outside the AFC North. Those six non-divisional teams, however, finished a combined 24-24 on the road last season. Las Vegas, which did beat Cleveland at home, had the best record at 6-2.
Browns strength of schedule
Cleveland’s opponents had a .518 winning percentage last season, giving the Browns’ the ninth-most difficult schedule by record. Cleveland had the fourth-easiest schedule in 2020.
That is a competition upgrade, and the addition of the NFC North makes it tougher. Cleveland is 4-16 against NFC North teams since returning to the NFL in 1999 — a 1-4 record against all four teams. The Browns swept the NFC East last season. Those black-and-blue games vs. the NFC North are the ones that will make the difference in the AFC North race.
Toughest tests: Kansas City, Green Bay and New England have the top three home records in the NFL the last three seasons. Those are the biggest stages for Mayfield, even if the spotlight tilts from now until Week 1.
Kansas City will still be the favorite in the AFC. The Patriots no longer have Brady, and Green Bay’s quarterback situation is undecided, but those remain three tough games for Cleveland on the road. The Chargers and Vikings could will be trap-type games.
Biggest breaks: The Browns get an extra game at home, and it should be an entertianing battle between Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Out of Cleveland’s five other non-divisional home games, the only sure thing at starting quarterback is Jared Goff in Detroit. The Browns were 6-2 at home last season, and the only losses were to the Ravens and Raiders. A full stadium could rekindle the “Dawg Pound” heyday in Cleveland, and Mayfield is 15-8 at home through three seasons.
The Browns should be able to take advantage of that to set up a run in the AFC North.
Bottom line: The AFC North has a case as the toughest division of football when you consider the quarterback play. The Ravens remain the biggest threat, and they swept Cleveland last season behind Lamar Jackson.
Cleveland exorcised a lot of demons with the playoff victory against Pittsburgh, but that was still just their first road victory at Heinz Field since 2003. What kind of response will Ben Roethlisberger have?
The Browns also escaped Cincinnati with Mayfield’s last-minute heroics in a shootout with Joe Burrow. Those road games will determine whether the Browns are a AFC wild-card team or a true contender for the No. 1 seed.
Mayfield will be under pressure to duplicate that success, and he is 9-8 as a starter in the AFC North. Cleveland has the talent to get back, but that tougher schedule will lead to a similar record.
Record prediction: 11-6