The Browns find out the dates and times for all 17 games on their 2021 schedule Wednesday night, but we don't need to wait for the schedule release to examine the difficulty of their opponents.
Or, more specifically, their quarterbacks.
That will be one of the biggest Browns themes to discuss following the NFL's schedule release of its first ever 17-game season. Nearly all opponents set to play the Browns can safely pencil in their starting quarterback, and that's one reason why Cleveland owns the ninth-hardest schedule in the NFL. The Browns will play teams from the AFC West (34-30 combined 2020 record) and NFC North (33-31 combined 2020 record) in addition to games against the Patriots (7-9), Texans (4-12) and two games each against their AFC North rivals, who combined for a 27-20 record last season.
Together, the combined record for the Browns' 2021 opponents is 140-130-2 — a .518 win percentage
Nearly each of those opponents, however, will enter 2021 in relatively strong shape at quarterback, and it's safe to assume the Browns defense — revamped with numerous free-agent signings and draft picks this offseason — will have endless hours of preparation in the fall.
A season ago, that wasn't always the case. The list of opposing quarterbacks from 2020 included a 38-year-old version of Philip Rivers, Dwayne Haskins, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Mike Glennon and Colt McCoy. Rivers retired after the season, while the rest of those quarterbacks have found new NFL homes after underwhelming seasons as starters or backups.
Check out photos of the stadiums the Browns will visit in 2021
Now, look at the list of quarterbacks the Browns face in 2021.
Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are most noticeable. Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer and took the Packers to the NFC Championship Game last season. Mahomes is following a similar Hall-of-Fame worthy path at just age 25. Both quarterbacks have a combined 51-10 record in the regular season over the last two years.
Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert are also on the list. Murray won Rookie of the Year in 2019 and is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. Herbert won Rookie of the Year in 2020 and will benefit from the Chargers' significant investments in their offensive line this offseason.
Inside the division, Joe Burrow will throw to one of the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. Lamar Jackson can always win games with his feet, while Ben Roethlisberger has always kept the Steelers playoff contenders no matter his age.
Other QBs on the list: Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and Derek Carr. The Browns could face two 2021 first-round picks as well in Justin Fields (Chicago) or Mac Jones (New England) if the rookies are given chances to start.
Luckily, the Browns have upgraded all levels of their defense to prepare for the weekly challenges each QB brings.
S John Johnson III provides a significant upgrade to the secondary and will be the leader of the defensive backfield. S Grant Delpit, a 2020 second-round pick, will play his first full season, too. CB Troy Hill was one of the top slot corners in the league last season and was another huge signing early in free agency. Up front, three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinley will join forces with Myles Garrett to create plenty of sack opportunities.
Oh, and there's LB Anthony Walker, CB Greg Newsome II, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah …
You see the point.