The Cleveland Browns are looking to get out of the basement of the AFC East in 2015. Cleveland already has a good defense and is waiting for the offense to come around. Brian Hoyer is out and the quarterback keys will be handed to either Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel. The Browns should be better this year, but how much? If they are to work themselves into the playoff mix this season, they will need to start off the season well. The beginning of their schedule is by far the easiest it will be all year and they need to get off to a good start before they reach division play.
Graphic via cbslocal
Cleveland starts of the season with games against the Jets, Titans, and Raiders. All three are winnable games and they need to at least pick up two of three. The New York game could be a dogfight between two very good defenses. That game will most likely come down to the wire and could go either way, but if Cleveland is improved as they say they are there is no reason they should lose to Tennessee or Oakland. Other than a game against St. Louis, who could be much improved themselves, the rest of the Browns schedule is brutal. They face San Diego in week four before their first matchup with division rival Baltimore. The problem for Cleveland is that Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati are all playoff caliber teams in their division. Mixed in with all their division games are Kansas City, Seattle, Denver, and San Francisco.
The Browns schedule basically consists of all games against former playoff teams. If they do make the next step and reach the playoffs this year they will have certainly earned it. Despite how tough their division is, the only way Cleveland can make the playoffs is if they can win a few division games. They will need to obtain at least second place in the division to have a shot at the wild card round. Although all these teams are tough they are not invincible. Cincinnati has a tough defense but Andy Dalton has not proven to be a great quarterback. The Browns should be able to keep those games close and will have a shot down the stretch. Against Pittsburgh, the Browns defense will be put to task.
They will have to find a way to slow down Big Ben and co. or they will have no chance against Pittsburgh. The same can be said for Baltimore. The only real way the Browns can reach the playoffs is if their offense improves greatly. With the tough schedule they have this year, they will not be able to only rely on their defense. Their defense will keep them in most games, but they will have to put up points as well.
Graphic via reddit