Snap judgments on 2008 schedule
Don't know if you've heard, but the color that will be all the rage in the NFL this fall is brown. Cleveland Brown. It'll be everywhere. Just watch.
The long downtrodden but recently resurgent Browns have been deemed ready for their close-up by the league schedule makers, and that's why we should all prepare to see plenty of
If there's anything that jumps off the page with the release of the 2008 NFL regular-season schedule Tuesday, it's those five prime-time appearances that Cleveland will make this season.
The Browns getting so much exposure is the sure sign that the NFL feels
The Browns will make their prime-time debut in 2008 with a Week 2 Sunday night home game against AFC North rival Pittsburgh -- their first appearance on NBC's prime-time showcase -- and they'll help kick off the NFL Network's third season of live late-season games with a Week 10 visit from Denver.
Entering their 10th season since being brought back from NFL extinction as a 1999 franchise team, the Browns have all the components that the league loves to shine a spotlight on. A high-powered offense -- led by Anderson, the out-of-nowhere Pro Bowl quarterback of last season -- some positive buzz created by Cleveland's acquisition of linemen
Cleveland plays eight games against 2007 playoff teams, including five of its first seven opponents. Overall, the Browns play 10 games against teams that were at least .500 last season, and the only team on Cleveland's schedule that won fewer than seven games last season is Baltimore, which went 5-11 to finish last in the AFC North.
Besides all those primetime appearances, the Browns will play four more 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. games, the first of which is Week 1 at home against the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys, who had the best record in their conference last season at 13-3. By comparison, Cleveland last year played 12 of its 16 games at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with only four late-afternoon time slots and no primetime games.
From virtual obscurity to a headline act. That's the quick trip the Browns have taken. Like many, I have Cleveland as the team to beat in its division this season, with its first trip to the playoffs since 2002 predicted.
Make no mistake, Brown is very in this year.
• Here are the 10 games I don't want to miss this season.....
Between them, the Patriots and Colts own five of the past seven AFC championships, and there's always the captivating
But alas, it was not to be. The Colts rested many of their injured starters (and some who weren't) and lost to the Titans, who qualified for that AFC wild-card berth that would have been the Browns'. The tank job turned in by the Colts still rankles aplenty in Cleveland, and Colts head coach
Finally, in year four of his NFL career,
The Mannings don't like San Diego to begin with, starting with that whole Eli mess in the 2004 draft. But now the Chargers are really starting to grate on Peyton's nerves.
That's going to make Romo vs. Manning must-see TV this year, times two.
But this year's England-based game should stand on its own two feet. The Chargers and Saints have two of the most high-powered offenses in the league, and you can make the case that the game is a possible Super Bowl preview without sounding like a complete idiot. It'll be Saints quarterback
But the league didn't get off that easy, because now Canada is mad and the city of Toronto is threatening to host the game as part of a exhibition doubleheader with the CFL's Argonauts facing off against one of those teams named the Rough Riders. Or Roughriders. (And yes, I do know the CFL's Grey Cup has been played by early December, so hold off on those emails, dear readers. I only jest).
• Can't help but wonder if the NFL Network's season debut in Week 10 -- Broncos at Browns -- will be seen by all the fans who care to see it? If we're still talking about this particular showdown come November -- NFL vs. Big Cable, Part III -- things could get ugly with the nation's football fans.
• Last year the Patriots had the NFL-maximum six night games, and five more games that were 4:15 p.m. Sunday kickoffs. Not that it fazed them much, since they still managed a perfect regular season. After having four of their first seven games start at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, the Patriots had just one more of those the rest of the year, which prompted New England owner
But the league can't do much about the Patriots' killer road schedule this year, which includes four of the longest trips NFL teams can take -- from Boston to San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle -- as well as New England's annual blood feud at Indianapolis.
• Then again, maybe the Patriots have a right to feel a bit picked on again this year when they look at Buffalo's schedule, their AFC East rival. The Bills have home games against San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle, the same four Pacific Time Zone teams that New England has to travel to.
• You know what New England at Oakland in Week 15 means, don't you?
• Speaking of reunion games of headline significance, there really aren't many on this year's schedule. The Falcons'
And lastly, if the
* Of the potential coaching reunion games, the pickings are pretty slim as well. Rookie head coach
But all those ex-Dallas coaches who went with
• Miami at St. Louis in Week 13 is worth a look, if only to see the top two picks in this year's draft go head-to-head for the first time. It'd be kind of fun if it wound up being Dolphins defensive end
Or vice versa, with Rams defensive end Chris Long going up against Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long. Take your pick. Lord knows I've tried.
• Holmgren's farewell tour in Seattle has at least one very nice touch to it: He and his Seahawks will face no fewer than four teams that are led by former Holmgren assistants: Washington (Zorn), Philadelphia (
• Green Bay plays at Seattle in Week 6, in a rematch of their NFC Divisional round playoff from January, that memorable snowy tableau at Lambeau that wound up being Brett Favre's final win as a Packers icon (maybe). Here's hoping the weather gods even up the score for the hometown Seahawks with one of those drenching Seattle rains on game day.
• Somebody give me credit for getting through this entire story without once listing any team's strength of schedule percentage. In the NFL, where change seems to be the only constant, there is no less meaningful, but ever-popular statistic.