It has been a rough two decades for the Cleveland Browns, securing a winning record just once in the past 15 years (2020). With Deshaun Watson poised to start all 17 games, expectations are relatively high. Does the Browns’ schedule point to them possibly being a playoff team in 2023?
Cleveland Browns Schedule and Opponents
Now that the official NFL schedule release has come and gone, here is the Browns’ full regular-season schedule.
- Hall Of Fame Game: vs. Jets
NBC | 8 p.m. ET (Thursday, Aug. 3)
- Preseason Week 1: vs. Commanders
TBD | 7:30 p.m. ET (Friday, Aug. 11)
- Preseason Week 2: at Eagles
TBD | 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday, Aug. 17)
- Preseason Week 2: at Chiefs
TBD | 1 p.m. ET (Saturday, Aug. 26)
- Week 1: vs. Bengals
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Sept. 10)
- Week 2: at Steelers (MNF)
ABC | 8:15 p.m. ET (Monday, Sept. 18)
- Week 3: vs. Titans
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Sept. 24)
- Week 4: vs. Ravens
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Oct. 1)
- Week 5: BYE
- Week 6: vs. 49ers
FOX | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Oct. 15)
- Week 7: at Colts
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Oct. 22)
- Week 8: at Seahawks
FOX | 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday, Oct. 29)
- Week 9: vs. Cardinals
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Nov. 5)
- Week 10: at Ravens
FOX | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Nov. 12)
- Week 11: vs. Steelers
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Nov. 19)
- Week 12: at Broncos
FOX | 4:05 p.m. ET (Sunday, Nov. 26)
- Week 13: at Rams
FOX | 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday, Dec. 3)
- Week 14: vs. Jaguars
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Dec. 10)
- Week 15: vs. Bears
- Week 16: at Texans
CBS | 1 p.m. ET (Sunday, Dec. 24)
- Week 17: vs. Jets (TNF)
Prime Video | 8:15 p.m. ET (Thursday, Dec. 28)
- Week 18: at Bengals
Cleveland Browns Strength of Schedule
According to Pro Football Network’s Arif Hasan, the Browns have the 10th-easiest strength of schedule. As Hasan puts it, “Cleveland can swing from seven wins to 10 depending on which Deshaun Watson they get.”
Watson will be the key to success for the Browns. His return in 2022 looked as though he hadn’t played football in years (he hadn’t) and like he was distracted by immense off-field issues (he was).
Over the course of a full season, Watson’s six games as the starter would’ve generated the least efficient scoring offense in football. Whether or not he can rebound will determine what type of season the Browns have.
Cleveland Browns Record Prediction
For almost the entirety of the past decade and a half, predicting the Browns not to win many games was a winning proposition. Their seven wins last season were actually one of their better totals over that span.
As we know all too well, anything can happen in the NFL. That’s why they play the games. However, there are no games on the Browns’ schedule that can be reasonably described as anything resembling guaranteed wins. Even with a full season of Watson, the Browns simply aren’t the type of team where you look at their schedule and see teams you can’t fathom them losing to.
At the same time, they have enough talent not to be a pushover. They only have one game on their schedule that is a near-lock to be a loss. Otherwise, all of their games could reasonably go either way.
The NFC West is one of the more challenging divisions to face (except for the Cardinals). But the AFC South is one of the weakest divisions in football.
The Browns’ current Vegas win total is set at 9.5, with the under heavily juiced. Even though the expectation is they will go under, 9.5 is one of their highest projected win totals ever. The mere fact that their projected win total gives them a record over .500 is a testament to how much better this team is expected to be.
The Browns did work in the offseason to get to this point. In free agency, they added standouts like Dalvin Tomlinson, Juan Thornhill, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo on the defensive side of the ball, and they also traded for a competent slot receiver in Elijah Moore.
Even without any first or second-round picks, the Browns were able to compound their momentum with a stellar 2023 NFL Draft class on paper. Cedric Tillman can be a complementary threat to Amari Cooper right out of the gate. Isaiah McGuire adds raw talent to the EDGE rotation, Siaki Ika is an effective nose tackle, and Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler both provide valuable offensive line depth.
Nevertheless, in spite of the improvements across the board, the Browns’ success or failure in 2023 will ultimately come down to whether Watson can regain his pre-suspension form. Jacoby Brissett was objectively a better quarterback than Watson last season. To be fair, Watson hadn’t played football in nearly two years. Expecting him to be a superstar immediately would’ve been unfair.
If Watson can even be 80% of the player he used to be, the Browns should very much be in playoff contention. While it’s still more likely they finish with 8-9 wins than anything more, they have a ceiling of about 11-12 wins if Watson returns to All-Pro form.
Of course, 8-9 wins are almost certainly not getting the Browns into the playoffs in the loaded AFC. Even 10 wins is no sure thing. The Browns will need to have a ceiling-type season to return to the postseason in 2023.
Projected Record: 10-7