Yes, the Browns have arrived to the big time.
Now it's up to them to maintain the respect they've won.
High expectations -- higher than put on them locally -- officially were stamped on the team by the NFL on Tuesday when it scheduled the Browns for five national prime-time appearances.
Only the San Diego Chargers, with six, have more prime-time appearances.
Three of the prime-time games are at home.
The Browns have three Monday night games on ESPN, matching Green Bay for the most this season:
Oct. 13 at home against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Nov. 17 at Buffalo.
Dec. 15 at Philadelphia.
There is one Sunday night appearance on NBC:
Sept. 14 at home against Pittsburgh.
There is one Thursday night game on NFL Network:
Nov. 6 at home against Denver.
But they will not play on Thanksgiving night, as rumored at NFL league meetings two weeks ago.
The last six games also are subject to the league's flexible scheduling format, which means the Browns could earn yet another Sunday night game if they are as good and as exciting as the NFL anticipates.
"Today, we are excited for our fans, the city of Cleveland and the Browns organization that we will have the opportunity to be showcased in front of a national audience on several occasions," coach Romeo Crennel said in a statement from the club.
The schedule is brutal.
It's not just that they play seven teams that made the playoffs in 2007, or six games against offenses ranked in the top 10 last year, or nine games against defenses ranked in the top 10.
The prime-time appearances are a source of pride, but they tend to disrupt the rhythm of a season. That's even true for a team steeled by prime-time experience like the New England Patriots, much less one new to the scene like the Browns.
The Browns of the Crennel-Phil Savage era have appeared in prime time only twice, losing both times in Pittsburgh, 34-21 in 2005 and 27-7 in 2006.
"Our schedule presents us with many challenges against a number of talented teams," Crennel said. "However, we will continue to work hard throughout the offseason to prepare for the 2008 season."
Every team in the AFC North has the same common opponents with the exception of two games. So, more than ever, the toughness of an NFL schedule is really determined by the rhythm of the schedule rather than the raw opponents.
Consider these scheduling tidbits:
For the 10th consecutive year, the Browns open at home. They'll play Dallas on Sept. 7 in a 4:15 p.m. game selected as the national game on Fox.
Their next three games are against division rivals, starting with the Sunday night affair at home against Pittsburgh and then road games at Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Their bye comes extremely early in the fifth week.
After road games at Washington and Jacksonville, they have perhaps their most difficult stretch -- two games in five days. They play Baltimore on Sunday, Nov. 2, and Denver on Thursday, Nov. 6. At least both are at home. But then they follow with the first of two Monday night games on the road, the first one at Buffalo.
The last time the Browns won a Monday night road game was in 1990 at Denver. They are 3-4 overall on the road on Monday nights. In prime time overall, the franchise is 17-22.
Three of the last four games are on the road.
The last two games are against division opponents -- at home against Cincinnati and then at Pittsburgh. The league is hoping games within the division in the last two weeks will make them more meaningful and discourage teams from tanking (resting starters)....