Which NFL Teams Got Hosed by 2014 Schedule?
The National Football League has been chugging along with scarcely a pause since the Super Bowl called an end to the season on February 2. Though pro football fans will have to wait until August 3 for next preseason to kick off with the Hall of Fame Game, there is still plenty going on.
Last month brought us the nonstop whirlwind that is free agency. Next month, we will get to experience the mass-media extravaganza known as the NFL draft. Sandwiched between the two, the NFL has been gracious enough to present us with the annual schedule release, which occurred on Wednesday night.
While fans are no doubt excited to see what their favorite teams have in store, some are likely more pleased than others. While some teams look to have received a fairly accommodating schedule next season, others have a slightly more difficult slate.
Some might just feel like they were handed a not-so-friendly slap in the mouth. But what exactly makes their paths more difficult?
To answer this question, the following teams "got hosed" by facing a particularly tough stretch of games or collection of quality opponents. We are also focusing on teams that missed the playoffs a season ago since, for parity's sake, successful teams should face higher-level competition.
Full schedule can be viewed on NFL.com.
2013 Record: 4-12
If the Cleveland Browns are going to have a successful season (a relative term for this long-suffering franchise), the team will likely need to get off to a fast start.
Unfortunately, schedule-makers have the Browns opening up on the road against the hated division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Following that are tough home games against the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns, for the record, haven't won a home opener since 2004.
Finishing the season won't be much easier. Cleveland faces three 2013 playoff teams—the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers—before the regular-season finale against the division-rival Baltimore Ravens.
On top of that, the Browns are only scheduled to have one nationally televised game: a Thursday night contest against the Bengals.
2013 Record: 7-9
Like the Browns (or any other team, for that matter), the Tennessee Titans would probably like to get off to a hot start during the 2014 season.
Unfortunately, that might be a bit easier said than done.
Tennessee kicks off the season with three out of four games on the road. Each of them comes against teams that made the playoffs a season ago. The Titans will open the season against the Chiefs and then play against the Bengals and Colts in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, with a game against the unpredictable Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
At least the schedule-makers awarded the Titans with a pair of prime-time games later in the season.
St. Louis Rams
2013 Record: 7-9
The St. Louis Rams might just be facing the toughest eight-week stretch we have seen schedule-makers produce in some time, which isn't exactly fair to a team trying to find its way in the brutal NFC West.
After the team's Week 4 bye, the Rams are scheduled for seven games against 2013 playoff teams in an eight-week period. Their opponents in that stretch include the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Diego Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers (twice).
St. Louis also has to play both of last year's Super Bowl participants, but at least those two are home games. Five of the Rams' contests in this brutal stretch are on the road.
The Rams' only non-playoff opponent between October 5 and November 23 is the Arizona Cardinals, who barely missed the playoffs at 10-6 a year ago.
2013 Record: 10-6
While they don't face a stretch quite as daunting as the one that looms for the Rams, the Arizona Cardinals still have a difficult schedule in front of them.
This is simply due to the fact that the Cardinals, who play in the NFC West, have to play six games against their own division, with four games against the AFC West on top of that. This means Arizona has games against the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers, plus two contests apiece with the 49ers and Seahawks.
Toss in a midseason matchup with the Eagles, and that's eight games against opponents who made the playoffs last season.
Four of those matchups will come in the final six weeks of the season, which might make it tough for the Cardinals to maintain any early-season success.
2013 Record: 4-12
If the Cardinals are in shock over their schedule, a glimpse at the Oakland Raiders' slate might just make them feel a little better.
The Raiders play in the AFC West, which means every divisional game will be against a team that made the playoffs a season ago. Oakland also has games against the 49ers, the Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
This makes nine games against opponents who appeared in the 2013 postseason.
Even some of the Raiders' less-heralded opponents might prove difficult thanks to scheduling. Oakland opens the season across the country against the New York Jets and will travel to play the Browns in Week 8.