Ever since the Cleveland Browns schedule came out in May, media types and fans alike have been trying to figure out how the team will fare.
The expectations are huge, but the schedule is by no means an easy one.
There will be plenty of critics for the Browns if they go less than 17-0 in the regular season which is highly unlikely.
Here are three games the Browns must win to quiet critics.
Spoiler alert: two of the three teams are AFC North rivals and were playoff participants in 2020.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Preferably, the Browns sweep the Ravens to atone for the losses that go back years.
The fact that Freddie Kitchens was the Browns head coach the last time the Browns beat the Ravens speaks volumes.
The Ravens are the Browns Achilles’ heel.
In 2020, the Browns never had a chance in that Week 1 game with a brand new head coach and a COVID-19 abbreviated preseason.
However, they had chances in the second matchup on Monday Night Football in Cleveland on December 14.
The Browns need to beat the Ravens this year; they have back to back chances in Weeks 12 and 14 only separated by a Week 13 bye.
MY MUST-BET #NFL GAMES OF 2021
WEEK 14: Ravens-Browns (-2.5, 46.5)
Browns play B2B vs Ravens with Wk 13 bye in between. That's 3 straight weeks of prep focused on Baltimore. Ravens at Pittsburgh in Wk 13 and this is 3rd road game in 4 weeks.
— Jason Logan (@CoversJLo) July 10, 2021
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns beat the Steelers two weeks in a row last season.
First was in Week 17 when the Steelers rested the starters, and the second was the playoff blowout that followed after JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s “Browns is the Browns” comments.
The Steelers will be looking for revenge for the lopsided defeat the Browns handed them in the divisional playoffs; they were never in the game.
Bill Cowher, in his media avail before his HOF enshrinement, says Ben Roethlisberger is "thriving" on the idea of proving those who think the Steelers won't be in the mix in 2021 wrong.
— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) July 13, 2021
The Browns need to defeat the Steelers one time but hopefully both games to put an exclamation point on what happened last season.
3. Green Bay Packers (Without Aaron Rodgers)
The third must-win game is harder to predict.
Dropping games to a lesser talented team on paper will draw a lot of criticism.
The Green Bay Packers game on Christmas Day is an interesting one.
If Aaron Rodgers is playing for the Packers, the Browns would certainly be an underdog coming into Lambeau.
However, if the Packers are without their future Hall of Fame quarterback, everything about this game is different.
NFL: "I think they can be 9-8."@caplannfl shares his expectations for the Green Bay Packers if Jordan Love is their starting quarterback with @mikeblewitt & @GOFORTHE2 #GoPackGo #NFLTwitter pic.twitter.com/ZmkTwpYhsU
— SportsGrid (@SportsGrid) July 4, 2021
While Jordan Love is an up and coming star, many Packers insiders say he is not ready yet to be the starting quarterback.
That means a long season for Love who will be getting on the job training.
As a result, the Browns should be the better team and should secure the win.
Honorable Mention – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are rising stars in the AFC North.
The question with them is how long will the rebuilding process take before they are contending for the division championship.
If the Browns want to win the division, they need to hand all divisional opponents losses.
Beating the Bengals last season was not an easy task as Joe Burrow greatly improved that team.
MAYFIELD TO PEOPLES-JONES. #Browns have the lead with 11 seconds left!
— NFL (@NFL) October 25, 2020
This season the Bengals have added more players to protect Burrow and help him succeed on offense.
There are no easy or sure wins in the NFL so the Browns need to approach every game as a must-win game and not concern themselves with what the critics are saying.