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Cleveland Browns 2022 schedule: Defining stretches sandwich Nov. 6 bye week

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BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' 2022 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Thursday.

The season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 8 with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium. ESPN opens its schedule with Monday Night Football on Sept. 12, featuring the Denver Broncos hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL expanded to 17 regular-season games last season. The final regular-season games in 2022 will be played Jan. 8, 2023. The playoffs begin Jan. 14, and continue through Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, in Glendale, Arizona.

Here's what in store for the Browns:

Schedule

Sept. 11: at Carolina

Sept. 18: vs. New York Jets

Sept. 22: Pittsburgh (TNF)

Oct. 2: at Atlanta

Oct. 9: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Oct. 16: New England

Oct. 23: at Baltimore

Oct. 31: Cincinnati (MNF)

Nov. 6: Bye

Nov. 13: at Miami

Nov. 20: at Buffalo

Nov. 27: Tampa Bay

Dec. 4: at Houston

Dec. 11: at Cincinnati

Dec. 17 or 18: Baltimore

Dec. 24: New Orleans

Jan. 1: at Washington

Jan. 7 or 8: at Pittsburgh

Strength of schedule: T-17th, .495

Biggest takeaway

The Browns face a pair of grueling stretches sandwiching their Nov. 6 bye, and they are sure to define Cleveland's season. The first gauntlet, including the Chargers, Patriots, Ravens and Bengals on Monday Night Football, features four AFC teams with legitimate playoff aspirations. Then, after the bye, the Browns square off against two more AFC playoff contenders in Buffalo and Miami before a showdown with Tom Brady and the Bucs on Thanksgiving weekend. If the Browns can post a winning record in those seven games, they will be well on their way back to the postseason.

Revenge game

The Steelers gave the Browns a pair of demoralizing losses last year. The first proved to be Odell Beckham Jr.'s final game in Cleveland; the second, likely Baker Mayfield's. The Browns will have a prime-time opportunity to send a message in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football, while setting a tone for the rest of the season.

What the oddsmakers think

The Browns over/under is currently 9.5 games. Whether Cleveland can top that will hinge heavily on whether new quarterback Deshaun Watson is suspended under the league’s code of conduct policy. If Watson isn’t suspended, the Browns have the talent to easily reach 10 victories against this schedule.

Bold prediction

It’s difficult to forecast Cleveland’s season without knowing whether Watson will be suspended. But if he isn’t, the Browns win their first division title since 1989.