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Analysis: 5 takeaways from Browns schedule, including a difficult early stretch and a vital final month inside AFC North

No predictions.

It’s simply too early, just hours after the schedule was released Wednesday night and nearly five months until the first game that counts.

But it’s fun to examine and analyze the Browns schedule that has Northeast Ohio buzzing, so here are five thoughts:

A SOFT-ISH OPEN

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The Browns will begin the season at home against the Titans, who went 9-7 last year. It’s not a scary matchup, but it’s certainly not a walkover — the Browns were installed as a way-too-early 4.5-point favorite by SportsBetting.ag.

The Browns have historically been awful in openers, going 1-18-1 since 1999. This is the perfect time to change that and set the proper tone for the season.

Baker Mayfield can join Jeff Garcia in 2004 as the only quarterbacks to win openers. All he needs to do is beat Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 pick in 2015 who has failed to join the NFL’s upper echelon.

STAY AFLOAT

Starting with a win would be helpful because a difficult early stretch comes next.

The Browns, who went 0-16 in 2017, will play three prime-time games within four weeks, starting with a Week 2 Monday night matchup at the Jets. They have a new coach in Adam Gase and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, whom the Browns passed up in favor of Mayfield.

A short week follows, ending with a Sunday night meeting in Cleveland against the NFC champion Rams. After a trip to Baltimore, the Browns will head to the other side of the country for another Monday nighter, this time against the San Francisco 49ers.

Before the Browns can take a breather at the Week 7 bye, they host Seattle and quarterback Russell Wilson, who just became the league’s highest-paid player with an average salary of $35 million a year.

Some fans would be disappointed, but if the Browns can get to the bye at least 3-3, they’d be set up to make a late push as the schedule settles down.

THE BIG ONE

The Browns will have plenty to think about over the bye, as a trip to face the Super Bowl champion Patriots on Oct. 27 will greet them upon return.

The 4:25 p.m. feature matchup on CBS should be a great barometer of how far the Browns have come and how far they have left to go.

The Patriots are the league’s most prepared team and traditionally take away a team’s greatest strength. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots will present the toughest test for new coach Freddie Kitchens and Mayfield.

The Patriots will be on a short week after playing at the Jets on Monday night, so the rested Browns catch a break.

STRING THEORY

If the Browns are going to meet expectations and make a run to the playoffs, they can’t alternate wins and losses. They need to go streaking.

November presents that opportunity, and they must take advantage.

The Browns open the month at Denver before a three-game homestand against Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Miami. They’ll be looking for at least three wins if not a clean sweep.

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME

The season ends with four AFC North games in the last five weeks. The Browns are favored to win the division for the first time, so this would be the time to exert their dominance.

A Dec. 1 trip to Pittsburgh begins the push to the finish and is followed by a home game against the Bengals, a trip to Arizona, a home game against the Ravens and the finale in Cincinnati.

The season won’t turn out the way the organization and the fans want without a strong finish and at least a 4-2 record inside the North.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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