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AFC, AFC North

Ranking the difficulty of 2020 NFL schedules in the AFC North

The 2020 NFL schedule was released not long ago. With it comes a lot of analysis. There are so many different things to look at in the AFC and the AFC North in particular.

Which teams travel the most? At the same time, which teams have the least amount of travel on their schedule?

More importantly, who has the easiest and toughest schedules for the 2020 season? Today, we are going to be looking at the AFC North specifically.

4. Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns were supposed to be an AFC playoff team in 2019. That didn’t happen though. They were considered one of the biggest disappointments in the league instead, not even cracking .500.

That put them in third place in the AFC North. Which means they will be facing off with the Las Vegas Raiders and the New York Jets. Those are their two games that differ from the rest of the division.

Neither team is bad. Both could push for an AFC playoff spot. However, neither team is exactly the most feared in the league either.

Cleveland is not going to have an easy time with this schedule. However, they won’t be dealing with the hardest group either. There are still some soft spots in there.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers likely would’ve been an AFC playoff team in 2019 if Ben Roethlisberger didn’t get hurt early on.

Even with that situation, they nearly snuck in with truly miserable quarterback play for a large portion of the season.

Still, they managed to come in second in the AFC North.

The Steelers play Buffalo in the AFC. The Bills are frightening because they have a stout defense and an emerging offense with a young, potential-filled quarterback.

Pittsburgh also plays the Denver Broncos, who are frightening because they have a stout defense and an emerging offense with a young and potential-filled quarterback.

Yes, that’s the same sentence. Both teams have young quarterbacks with a lot of weapons around them and great defenses. Both will cause a lot of problems in 2020. Unlucky for the Steelers, they will face both AFC teams.

This is far from an easy schedule. The AFC North is working with some tough games though, so it’s still third in the division.

2. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 last season, the best record in the NFL. With it, they won the AFC North pretty comfortably.

Now their reward is facing the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots in 2020. Those are the last two Super Bowl winners, so that’s fun.

However, New England isn’t the same threat anymore. Yes, they could still find a way to make the playoffs, but they don’t have Tom Brady. And it seems kind of like they aren’t as invested this season.

That being said, they still have an incredible defense and Bill Belichick, so don’t count them out in the AFC.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs are even scarier now. So Baltimore can’t be happy about that.

At the same time, the Ravens have the least amount of travel in the 2020 AFC (and the NFL). That softens the blow a little. They also are the best team in the division. They don’t have to face themselves so everyone else has that burden on their backs.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals had the worst record in the 2019 regular season. So it’s not hard to guess, they came in last place in the AFC North.

That gives them an advantage when it comes to strength of schedule, as the two games they differ with from the rest of the division are against weak teams.

Those two teams are the Los Angeles Chargers and the Miami Dolphins.

Now, Miami could be improved in 2020. In fact, they definitely will be. They aren’t exactly major threats just yet. And the Chargers are coming off a down year and now don’t have Philip Rivers at quarterback.

Cincinnati also gets a home game against the Dallas Cowboys, who usually have strong home field advantage. At the same time they have an away game against the Washington Redskins (whose home field advantage is lacking, to say the least).

Now, you could argue that the Bengals actually have it toughest though. They are the only team in the division that isn’t a legitimate playoff contender in 2020. So while everyone else gets two “easier” games against Cincinnati, they don’t get those division games off.