The NFL 2018 season has been scheduled, the draft and free agency are mostly complete, rookie minicamps are taking place, and we can start looking forward to the upcoming 2018 NFL Season. How optimistic can fans of the Cleveland Browns be regarding their chances to improve on last year's 0-16 performance? The sky is the limit for the Browns this season because the bar is so low, it can't get any lower so let's take a more in-depth look at their 2018 schedule and see if there is any room for optimism ongoing 6-10 this season.

Early Season Challenges

Week one against Pittsburgh, Week two at New Orleans, Week three against the NY Jets on Thursday Night Football, Week four against Oakland Raiders in Oakland. The Browns open the 2018 season with the Steelers at home for the second straight year. Since 2004, when future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger was drafted 11th overall by the Steelers, the Browns have won three times in 14 seasons.

One of the wins, in 2012, 20-14, Pittsburgh reserve QB Charlie Batch filled in for an injured Roethlisberger. Cleveland played Pittsburgh tough in 2017, despite losing twice for the third year in a row, including Week 17 when Pittsburgh's second team defeated the Browns. How hopeful can a Browns fan really get about starting the season 1-0?

In 2004, Cleveland held the sixth pick overall, traded up to three, and selected Michigan WR Braylon Edwards. The quagmire of the past 14 seasons for Cleveland can be traced to this single decision.

Week two of the 2018 NFL Season, a trip to New Orleans against another Hall of Fame QB, Drew Brees, who is virtually impossible to beat at home.

How optimistic can the Browns fanbase the season starts 1-1? Week three, after a short week to prepare, the Browns face the New York Jets for the second year in a row. Last year’s, many picked the Browns to win the game against the Jets. They lost 17-14. Prognosticators are giving the Browns a win. Perhaps Browns fans can be somewhat optimistic Cleveland starts the 2018 NFL Season 1-2.

Week four, the Browns head out west to play Jon Gruden, the Oakland Raiders, and another very capable MVP caliber QB in Derek Carr.

Schedule does not lighten up

Week five, after perhaps a 1-3 start, the Browns will be at home against the Baltimore Ravens. Since 2008, when Joe Flacco was drafted, the Browns are 3-17 against the Ravens with a current losing streak of five games. Cleveland has no recent success against any division opponent. Can the Browns really expect success this year? Perhaps this is the year things change for the Browns against the rest of the NFC North. Is there a realistic chance for the Browns to be 2-3 five weeks into the season?

Week six, at home against the Los Angeles Chargers, against another Hall of Fame QB, Phillip Rivers (eventually, he gets to Canton).

The Browns played them tough out west last year and west coast teams traveling to the eastern time zone for a 1 PM EST Sunday game are at a disadvantage. Week seven at Tampa Bay. Week eight at Pittsburgh, an unfortunate draw for the Browns based on recent history to play the Steelers twice in eight weeks. Week nine at home against the Kansas City Chiefs whose new QB Patrick Mahomes will not be a rookie anymore. Week ten, at home against the Atlanta Falcons, an early favorite to reach Super Bowl LIII. Heading into their bye week, Week 11, if everything went great, the Browns could be 3-7.

The Schedule is downright challenging

After the Browns bye week, their first game is Week 12, at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since 2011, when Andy Dalton was drafted, the Browns have won three times in 14 games, including losing the last seven in a row. The game comes off the bye week and is at home. The Browns will have every advantage. This could be the time the Browns make the switch to Baker Mayfield, although I expect him to be starting in Cleveland much earlier than everyone expects. Week 13, a road trip to Houston to face the Texans when DeShaun Watson is expected to be healthy.

The Houston game could not have been drawn Week four when Houston will apparently be starting Brandon Weeden. When is DeShaun Watson going to return from season-ending ACL injury? It’s one of the intriguing questions of the 2018 NFL Season.

Week 14, a home draw against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Week 15, a road trip to Denver. The Browns will close the season with division games against Cincinnati and finish the season Week 17 against the Ravens. The sad thing for fans of the Cleveland Browns, 4-12 might the best their fans can realistically expect.