Why the Browns would love to open in Brazil vs. the Eagles, and why they have an excellent chance: Mary Kay Cabot

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns players and staffers might want to brush up on their Portuguese and make sure their passports are up to date.

 

There’s a good chance the Browns will be selected to play the “home team” Eagles in Brazil in next season’s opener on Sept. 6, and they’re excited about the possibility, a league source told cleveland.com.

 

 

 

The fact that the Browns enthusiastically embrace the chance to make history in Brazil will undoubtedly be a big selling point with the NFL, which will choose among the Eagles’ nine home opponents for their opener in Sao Paulo.

 

It will mark the first NFL game in South America, and the first Friday night season opener since Sept. 18, 1970, when the Cardinals played at the Rams.

 

It also means that the Browns might play their first two games on the road, given that Billy Joel and Rod Stewart are playing at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Friday, Sept. 13, and the grounds crew probably couldn’t have the field ready in time for a Sunday game.

 

It would make for a lot of traveling early on, with the Browns set to begin training camp at The Greenbrier, a resort and sports complex in West Virginia, for the second straight year.

 

The Eagles’ opponent for the Brazil game will likely be announced sometime before the full schedule comes out in early May.

 

 

 

But a closer look reveals that the Browns actually have more like a 25% chance — or better — to bring NFL football to South America. The Eagles’ other eight home opponents are the Falcons, Packers, Jaguars, Steelers, Panthers, Cowboys, Giants and Commanders, with the latter three being big-gate NFC East opponents.

 

 

 

A league source said the Eagles, who went 11-6 last season like the Browns, would love to avoid playing a division opponent in Brazil so as to protect their home attendance at Lincoln Financial Field. If the NFL obliges, that would rule out the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders.

 

The Jaguars will play a home game in London and the Panthers play a home game in Munich, Germany, so that effectively eliminates them. That leaves the Browns, Falcons, Packers and Steelers as the most viable options.

 

The Eagles would probably also rather host their in-state rival Steelers at The Linc than the Browns, who aren’t as big a draw.

 

The Steelers also might not be as enthusiastic as the Browns are to fly 12-15 hours to Brazil for the opener, but as the road team, they might not have much say in the matter.

 

The last time the Steelers played an international game was a loss to the Vikings in London in 2013. The last time the Browns played an international game was a 33-16 loss to the Vikings in England on Oct. 29, 2017 — en route to their 0-16 record. Kevin Stefanski was the Vikings quarterbacks coach that game.

 

The Packers and Browns also have road games against the Jaguars, and are possibilities to play in London. As for the Steelers, their only opportunity for an international game this year is in Brazil, so that could factor in.

 

 

The Falcons and Packers have also each played a game in London in the past two seasons, which could factor in.

 

 

The Browns and Eagles are almost sister teams across conferences, and that could come in handy for such a historic game, played in a country with 38 million sports fans. The teams have conducted joint practices in Cleveland and Philadelphia the past two seasons leading up to their preseason matchups, and both teams have counted them as overwhelmingly positive experiences.

 

Browns GM Andrew Berry and assistant GM Catherine Raiche both recently worked under Eagles GM Howie Roseman in Philadelphia, and Berry’s twin brother Adam is currently Eagles’ director of football operations and strategy.

 

What’s more, Stefanski and Eagles coach Nick Sirianni are good friends, and that will help in working out the logistics of the trip.

 

 

The fact that the Browns would likely have to open with two straight road games because of the concert wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. Last season, four teams opened with two straight road games (Dolphins, 49ers, Packers, Raiders) and in 2022, three teams did (Bucs, Colts, Patriots). It wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for a trip to Brazil.

 

 

 

The Browns demonstrated last season that they travel extremely well. They spent the first 10 days of camp at The Greenbrier, and players consistently stated throughout the season how much the trip bonded them.

 

The Browns then spent five days in Philadelphia, practicing for two days against the Eagles leading up to their Thursday night preseason clash on Aug. 17. The trip included a walk-through at Penn, Stefanski’s alma mater.

 

Their next extended trip was a week in Los Angeles leading up to their game against the Rams. The Browns practiced for three days at UCLA.

 

The players and coaches consistently cited the trips as bonding experiences that helped them weather the storm of so many injuries. Despite losses to key players such as Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson, the team held it together enough to make the playoffs with their fourth quarterback in Joe Flacco.

 

With the Brazil trip being a vitally important one to the NFL, they’ll take comfort in knowing that the Browns — from top to bottom — can handle such a big undertaking. The NFL won’t comment on possible matchups for the game, but the Browns certainly make sense for the Eagles on Sept. 6.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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