Guessing which Browns games will get prime-time treatment this season

The 2024 NFL schedule is coming, sooner than later. Based on recent years, it could be released by the end of this week.

Where will the Cleveland Browns rank in the AFC must-see TV hierarchy? It’s probably fair to assume they’ll get more than the two prime-time spotlight games they had in 2023, but we don’t know if that will mean a return to “Sunday Night Football,” special holiday placement or multiple Monday night games for just the second time since 2008.

The Browns have long known their opponents for the season ahead, but the league has turned the official schedule release into an event. What’s the best blend of spotlight and rest for a team trying to build on last year’s 11-win season? Will the Browns have an especially early bye week (like they did last year) or get a road-heavy closing stretch? We’re getting closer to knowing for sure, so below we’ll take some guesses at which games will get standalone treatment.

Some things to know and note:

• The NFL will play three games on Saturday, Dec. 21. Four of those six teams will play four days later on Christmas, which falls on a Wednesday. The NFL justifies this misery for the teams involved by citing Saturday-Wednesday as the same four-day turnaround as Sunday-Thursday.

So, I’m not going to predict that the Browns will play on Christmas. But with the expected competitiveness of the AFC North, the regional rivalries that make travel relatively easy and the number of high-profile opponents on their schedule, I think the Browns playing one of those Saturday games and then facing a division opponent on Christmas is something that could happen.

In 2021, they played their first Christmas game at Green Bay. That Browns team was also coming off a playoff appearance and entering a season of high expectations.

Would teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens ask not to play on Christmas two years in a row? Would the NFL honor that request if it was made? We’ll find out soon, but I see a potentially high-stakes AFC North game as a good Christmas fit.



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• The Browns opened at home last year for the first time since 2019. We’re all assuming Cleveland will open at home this year because the stadium is hosting a Billy Joel concert on the Friday night of Week 2, but that’s just an assumption. With nine road games, the Browns will almost certainly have to play back-to-back away from home at some point. And after playing at Pittsburgh on Monday night in Week 2 last year, hosting a Monday Week 2 game this year with an extra day to deconstruct the concert stage is feasible.

The Browns aren’t going to Brazil for their opener, but they could go to London, where the Jaguars will be the host for one game. Given that the Browns wanted to go to Brazil, it’s fair to assume that if they don’t go to London this year, they’ll be in one of the NFL’s international games in 2025. In recent years, the NFL has generally announced the remaining international games, a small handful of other marquee games and some season-opening games in the days before the full schedule is released.

• These are best guesses. Flex scheduling now includes the potential for Monday and Thursday games late in the season to be moved, and though Cleveland getting three to four standalone games seems to be a fair guess, the actual number is to be decided. Each of the Browns’ three AFC North rivals got four prime-time games on last year’s initial schedule, and being considered a division that could potentially have late-season drama means those matchups could land in the NFL’s other two December Saturday spots, too.

Ahead of the schedule release, here’s how I view the likelihood of the Browns landing in a prime-time spot this fall (and winter).

Ravens (x2)

The schedule-makers know they’re getting history, standings significance and probably some high drama with these teams. It’s fair to think the Ravens and Lamar Jackson will get plenty of prime-time spots — facing Jim Harbaugh and the Los Angeles Chargers feels like one of them. The Browns and Ravens played a Saturday game in Cleveland in 2022 and a Sunday night game in Baltimore in 2021, so there’s precedent. Cleveland’s big rally last year in Baltimore adds some juice to this year’s meetings, and I think one of them could have a national audience.


Travis Kelce’s Cleveland homecoming game should be somewhat of a big deal. Now that Jason Kelce is working for ESPN, wouldn’t turning a Chiefs-Browns Monday night game into a full Kelce event be something that generates buzz? An early-season Chiefs at Browns spotlight seems to fit, and we know Kansas City is going to be at the maximum for prime-time games. A good number of Patrick Mahomes games land on network-protected 4:25 p.m. ET starts every year, and the Chiefs’ marquee home games versus the Ravens and Texans and road games at the Bills and 49ers fit those spots. In 2023, the Chiefs played two Sunday 1 p.m. games all season.

Last year’s Monday nighter did not go well for the Browns, but it was a compelling game that went down to the final minutes. Both teams made the playoffs, T.J. Watt versus Myles Garrett is always marketable and the logistics matter, too. Whether it’s a short week leading up to Browns-Steelers or following a Monday night game, the short travel between Cleveland and Pittsburgh makes it a better fit for the teams’ long-term planning than most other night-game scenarios.

Joe Burrow’s track record against the Browns is not good, which has added some real spite to this rivalry. There’s enough star power in the current Battle of Ohio to make it an appealing choice for a spotlight game, and it’s fair to assume both the Browns and Bengals will be in the neighborhood of four standalone games on their initial schedules.

@ Eagles

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski hates the spotlight, but wouldn’t a homecoming game for the two-time NFL Coach of the Year be appealing? One potential issue is the schedule-makers’ habit of force-feeding us bad NFC East games every season, so maybe the Eagles will already be at or near their maximum for prime-time games. The NFL chose the Packers for the Brazil opener against the Eagles in part because Green Bay is just a buzzier team with a more marketable quarterback, but Browns-Eagles could still be a marquee game.



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The Cowboys are always going to be slated for more spotlight games than most teams, but with a schedule that includes the Lions, Texans, 49ers, the entire NFC East and AFC North, there are a bunch of Dallas games that will sit higher on the list than Cowboys at Browns for the first time in eight years.

At its best, Miami is a hard-to-defend offense that can score in a hurry with Tyreek Hill and a bunch of other track stars. The Dolphins got three prime-time games last year, and it’s more likely Cleveland’s 2024 spotlight games will come against NFC East opponents, but the Dolphins’ loaded offense versus the Browns’ loaded defense could make for an interesting Monday nighter.

@ Jaguars

If the folks in charge think a big year is ahead for Trevor Lawrence, the Jags will probably get three or four spotlight games. One of them will be their London home game, as noted above, and we’ll see how the schedule-makers handle the AFC South. Thanks to C.J. Stroud’s emergence, the Texans will be at or near the maximum for prime-time games a year after the initial schedule had them with zero. A December Browns-Jags matchup could be seen as a potential playoff elimination game.


These teams have produced wild, memorable and even significant games in recent years. But after multiple years of the Chargers becoming a high-profile bust under former coach Brandon Staley, it’s hard to tell how they’ll be viewed by schedule-makers in their first season under Jim Harbaugh. A 4 o’clock-window game in Cleveland seems more likely than a night game.

@ Saints

Both teams are playoff contenders, but there’s not a lot of history or direct connection here. Both have better potential Thursday fits within their respective divisions.

@ Broncos

The Browns’ track record in Denver is not great, but because not many think the Broncos are going to be good, this probably doesn’t have much national appeal. Bo Nix’s dad threw touchdown passes in high school to legendary former Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, but that’s not going to fill three hours of pregame programming.

Jim Schwartz and Garrett versus either Daniel Jones or Drew Lock. This feels like a standard Sunday 1 p.m. home game.

@ Commanders

Washington probably will get its national game (or games) inside the NFC East, or potentially on a Thursday night backyard brawl against Baltimore.

@ Raiders

Browns fans are going to show up for their team’s first game in Vegas. Whether those fans make it to the stadium on Sunday or have money left to pay for airport parking on Monday remains to be seen, but this is almost certainly a standard Sunday afternoon game in the 4 p.m. ET window.

(Photo of Greg Newsome II and Myles Garrett: Nick Cammett / Getty Images)

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