Browns to be featured in four prime-time games

The NFL is on board with the Cleveland Browns.

The league granted the Browns four prime-time games in 2019, including three in the first five weeks of the season, perhaps the most notable takeaway from Wednesday night’s schedule release.

No team has appeared in fewer prime-time games over the past 10 seasons than the Browns (11). During that span, the franchise accumulated an NFL-worst 41-118-1 record. But the Browns won five of their final seven games in 2018 after inserting quarterback Baker Mayfield into the starting lineup, and their offseason trades for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass-rusher Olivier Vernon have further elevated excitement about the team.

The Browns will open their prime-time schedule in Week 2 at the New York Jets on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. In Week 3, they will host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football (NBC).

In Week 5, they will play on Monday night at the San Francisco 49ers. Finally, they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night in Week 11.

The league will continue its flexible schedule program. Beginning in Week 11, the league will have the option to move Sunday afternoon games to Sunday night to ensure quality matchups.

The NFL will open the regular season, the 100th in its history, on Sept. 5 with the 199th meeting between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Super Bowl LIII champion New England Patriots will open at home on Sept. 8 against the Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

The Patriots’ schedule also features a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, as New England will host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. Some other highlights on New England’s schedule include a Week 8 home game against the Browns, a Week 9 game on Sunday night in Baltimore against the Ravens, a Week 11 game at Philadelphia against the Eagles and a Week 12 game at home against the Dallas Cowboys.

All 32 teams will appear in at least one game on Thursday, Sunday or Monday night.

The season ends Dec. 29, when Chicago finishes at Minnesota for the fourth successive year. All finales are divisional games for the 11th straight season.

“This is an exciting time,” said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, whose team opens at Dallas. “This week, we started the offseason program. And now we can see when we’re going to play. We knew who our opponents would be and where we are going to play, but there’s an excitement that builds once the schedule comes out.”

Among the oddities of the schedule: In one stretch, the Raiders will go seven weeks before playing a game in Oakland. They entertain the Chiefs on Sept. 15 then have road games at Minnesota and Indianapolis, host Chicago in London, are off Oct. 13, and then go to Green Bay and Houston. They return to Oakland on Nov. 3.

The Buccaneers also will be road weary early in their schedule They host the Giants on Sept. 22 then have a six-week stretch that includes four road games, one game in London and a bye week before finally returning to Tampa Bay on Nov. 10 for a matchup with the Cardinals.

One team, Philadelphia, has three straight home games and three consecutive road games. No other team has three away games in a row, though the Rams will be away from Los Angeles for a visit to Atlanta on Oct. 20, that “home” contest in London the next week, then a bye and a trip to Pittsburgh.

Also with three straight home games will be Green Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston.

Meanwhile, history buffs will be counting down the weeks as two quarterbacks approach Peyton Manning‘s record for career touchdown passes (539).

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees needs 20 touchdown throws to break the record; if he follows his career pace of about 1.9 touchdown passes per game, he will eclipse Manning in Week 12 at Tampa Bay. The Saints play at home against the Falcons and Carolina Panthers on either side of that game.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady needs 23 touchdown passes to get past Manning. At his career pace, he would project to do it in Week 13 at the Houston Texans. The Patriots play at home against the Cowboys and Chiefs on either side of that game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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