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5 takeaways from the Browns' 2018 schedule
April 20, 2018 07:05 PM | Patrick Maks
1. Tough opening act

The Browns host the Steelers (13-3 in 2017) in the season opener and then travel to New Orleans for a game against the Saints (11-5), who might be one of the early Super Bowl favorites after a strong campaign a year ago. While Cleveland stands to improve, thanks in part to the additions of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, receiver Jarvis Landry and several young players poised to make developmental jumps, that stretch will be a tough task for a new-look team likely still finding its groove. It should, however, give the Browns an idea of where they stand early in the year. If the Browns can pull off the upset in Week 1, it'll be their first win in a season opener in 15 tries.

2. Speaking of the Saints...

There's no other way to put it: Playing the NFC South will be difficult. The Saints, Panthers and Falcons all made the playoffs and the Buccaneers - despite an unexpected step backward last season - should bounce back this fall. The four teams combined for a 37-27 record, the best overall mark of any division in 2017. It's partly why Cleveland has the fifth-toughest strength of schedule. The good news? The Browns host Atlanta and Carolina once the weather starts turning in Northeast Ohio.

3. Primetime should be fun

After a year full of afternoon kickoffs, the Browns will play under the lights for the first time since November 2016. Cleveland hosts the New York Jets (Sept. 20) on Thursday Night Football in a game that's already really interesting on paper.

For starters, it's the third-straight matchup between the teams. The Browns outgained the Jets last season but lost because of turnovers and, the year before, couldn't protect a 20-10 lead at halftime. So there's some unfinished business for head coach Hue Jackson and Co.

Moreover, New York's roster will be headlined by a trio of former Browns in quarterback Josh McCown (who had a career-year as the Jets' starter in 2017), wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (who eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving with Cleveland in 2016) and running back Isaiah Crowell, who departed the team in free agency after four seasons.

4. A reunion of sorts

When the Browns host Kansas City in Week 9, it'll be something of a reunion for general manager John Dorsey.

Dorsey, who held that same position with the Chiefs from 2013-16, played a pivotal role in building Kansas City into the playoff contender they are today, drafting the likes of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Dorsey, of course, now finds himself trying to do the same thing in Cleveland. He's already made a mark with the additions of Taylor, Landry, and can continue the team's reshaping in next week's NFL Draft, where the Browns own the first and fourth overall picks.

5. Same division, new opponent in season finale

For the first time in four years, the Browns will close the season against someone other than the Steelers. Cleveland, instead, travels to Baltimore on Dec. 30. It's the third time the Browns and Ravens have dueled on the final day of the season since 1999 and first since 2014. Cleveland lost by double-digits in both bouts against Baltimore last year, combining for nine turnovers.

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