Schedule Release

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Analyzing the Browns' strength of schedule: Browns know firsthand how much can change in a year

Tune in Thursday at 7 p.m. to "Browns Live: Schedule Release Show" to watch interviews with celebrity guests and the real-time release of the 2020 schedule.

The Browns 2020 schedule will be released Thursday night, and for fans and analysts, that often means taking a way-too-early prediction at how many wins each team will build now that the dust from the draft and free agency has settled.

We're not here to make a guess at how many wins the Browns will have in 2020, but there's merit in comparing their strength of schedule to the rest of the league.

How do you do that? The most logical way is to take a look at the win percentage each opponent had in 2019 and compare. It paints a reasonable picture for how successful a team could be next season, but it's far from perfect. 

The total 2019 record for the 13 opponents on the Browns' 2020 schedule is 118-138, a win percentage of .461. That gives the Browns the fourth-easiest schedule in the league.

But a look at last year's strength of schedule for the Browns shows that it's not always fair to correlate what's presumed to be an "easy" schedule in the offseason with guaranteed wins in the regular season. 

Cleveland had what was considered the 10th-easiest schedule before the 2019 season partly because it was supposed to play each team from the NFC West. The division included the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, who were expected to be two of the top teams in the NFC. It also included the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, who combined for seven wins in 2018 and weren't viewed in the strength of schedule statistics as difficult opponents.

The wait for the Browns' 2020 schedule will end Thursday when the NFL unveils full slates for all 32 teams. For now, check out the Browns 2020 opponents in photos

By clicking below, you can have the Browns' 2020 schedule automatically synced to your calendar.

The Browns went 0-4 against their NFC West competition, which combined to go 38-25 on the season with just 13 losses coming against foes outside their division. The 49ers, of course, represented the NFC in the Super Bowl after improving their win total by nine games in the regular season and earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

What does that all mean for this year?

The Browns might have the fourth easiest schedule in the league right now, but their NFC opponents this year — the NFC East — could be on a similar trajectory as the NFC West from a year ago.

The NFC East is headlined by the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning division champs despite finishing with a 9-7 record, and Dallas Cowboys, who are poised to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 season. Then there's the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, who — similar to the Niners and Cardinals from 2018 — combined for seven wins last season. Both teams, however, have new head coaches and made key additions to potentially show significant improvements in 2020.

The strength of schedule numbers don't take those changes into consideration, which is why the Browns, and the rest of the AFC North, appear to have the easiest schedules next season. Cleveland's strength of schedule is only third in the AFC North, but each divisional rival is set to play the NFC East. 

We're not saying that strength of schedule is entirely flawed, but it's not always an accurate representation of how a season will end. The Browns can certainly attest to that when reflecting on their strength of schedule from a year ago, and it's worth keeping in mind when viewing the Browns' 2020 schedule upon its release this evening.

Browns 2020 opponents (2019 record)

Baltimore Ravens (14-2)

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

Washington Redskins (3-13)

New York Giants (4-12)

New York Jets (7-9)

Tennessee Titans (9-7)

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) 

Indianapolis Colts (7-9)

Houston Texans (10-6)

Las Vegas Raiders (7-9)

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