Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quadrant quandary

Breaking down the Browns’ schedule for 2011 . . . should it ever be played.

It’s really very simple. The best way to look at it is in quadrants.

For example, the Browns play three of their first four games at home, a trip to Indianapolis in week two breaking up home visits from Cincinnati, Miami and Tennessee.

The second quarter of the season has the Browns playing three of their next four games on the road following the bye week in week 5. This will prove the most torturous four-game stretch (from a travel standpoint) with trips to Oakland and San Francisco sandwiched around a visit in week 7 by Seattle. It concludes with a trip to Houston in week 9.

The third set of four games brings the Browns back home for three against St. Louis, Jacksonville and Baltimore broken up by a trip to Cincinnati to face the Bengals in week 12.

Then it’s back on the road again to wrap up the season with three straight games in Pittsburgh (a Thursday night affair on Dec. 8), Arizona and Baltimore before winding up the season at home on New Year’s Day against the Steelers.

Unlike last season, when the Browns traveled outside the Eastern Time zone just once (New Orleans), three of their eight journeys this season are out west with stops in San Francisco, Oakland and Arizona.

West Coast trips are difficult enough on football teams because of the time change, but when two of them (Oakland and San Francisco) are just a couple of weeks apart, that very well could have a telling physical effect on the Browns.

They knew they would have to make at least two trips west, but never figured on something like this. It appears as though someone in the National Football League scheduling department does not like Cleveland.

After opening the season again at home (for the 12th time in 13 seasons since the return in 1999) against Cincinnati, the Browns do not meet another AFC North opponent until week 12 when they return the favor and travel to Cincinnati.

In fact, five of their last six games are against division opponents. Only the trip to Glendale, Ariz., to play the Cardinals in week 15 breaks up the AFC North scheduling. The NFL wanted division games down the homestretch, but this is ridiculous.

It’s way too early to start making predictions on the Browns’ season, although it’s always a lot of fun – and very tempting – to do so. Too many variables with which to deal. Like who’s going to be on the roster? And whom are they going to draft?

And the most important variable. Is there really going to be a 2011 season?

If there is, it’s best to break it down into the aforementioned quadrants for the Browns. Separate them and use them as a guide to how the club performs.

It wouldn’t be surprising if coach Pat Shurmur does it that way. You know the routine. Treat games 1, 5, 9 and 13 as though they are the first games of a series. Wipe the slate clean after games 4, 8 and 12.

Crazy? You bet. But coaches always look for psychological ways to climb into their players’ heads. Why not this way? What does Shurmur have to lose?

Don't answer. Rhetorical question.

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