The Browns' 2023 schedule could end up being a lot tougher than their strength-of-schedule ranking suggests.
That ranking is No. 26, according to the SOS system that factors the 2022 records of all teams. The Browns' opponents had a combined record of 131-154-2 last year, which was good for a .460 winning percentage. The only teams with a weaker SOS for next season are the Panthers (.453), Titans (.448), Colts (.434), Texans (.431), Saints (.427) and Falcons (.417).
All of those teams' opposing win percentages, including the Browns, would've placed them among the easiest SOS ranks last year — the Cowboys and Commanders were tied for 31st in the 2022 SOS (based on 2021 win percentages) with a .462 opponent win percentage.
That suggests the Browns should have an easier schedule next season compared to most of their NFL peers, but will the schedule really be that easy?
It's far from certain. To believe that is to suggest a team like the Jets — who will be piloted by their new nine-time Pro Bowl QB, Aaron Rodgers — might not improve on their 7-10 record last season, or that the Broncos won't find improvement from a 5-12 record with Sean Payton as their new head coach, or that Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence won't build on a breakout sophomore season and help Jacksonville continue climbing after going 9-8.
The Browns are set to play several other teams — the Bears, Titans, Texans, Colts and Rams, to name a few — who are all looking to show improvement from last year. And the usual AFC North teams can't be forgotten, either.
The Browns, however, are banking on being a better team, too.
If their vision for the season holds true, the Browns will be a much-improved team under QB Deshaun Watson, who will play his first full season in Cleveland since he was traded from the Texans. The Browns also believe their defense can take a big step under the coaching of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who knows how to create a bully of a defensive line that does nothing but attack the quarterback and get behind the line scrimmage in a hurry.
The Browns might have a harder schedule than their SOS suggests, but they should be well-equipped to play anyone.