David Richard/Associated Press
Last Postseason Appearance: 2002-03
2013 Record: 4-12
2014 Strength of Schedule: .465
With new general manager Ray Farmer and new head coach Mike Pettine building the team, the Cleveland Browns aggressively approached the offseason and are set up to be a contender if the right pieces fall into place.
On paper, the Browns defense should be even better than the ninth-ranked unit (332.4 yards per game allowed) the team fielded last season. Free-agent additions like Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby should help bring leadership, while young players like rookie first-round selection Justin Gilbert should add talent.
Of course, Cleveland will still have to find a way to play efficiently on offense, especially with star receiver Josh Gordon facing a potential year-long ban. Adding free-agent running back Ben Tate and rookie runner Terrance West should help bring balance to the unit, but Cleveland's fate likely hinges on the team's ability to get solid quarterback play.
Fortunately, the Browns shouldn't be forced to start rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel before he is ready due to the presence of journeyman Brian Hoyer.
The AFC North sent just one team (the Cincinnati Bengals) to the playoffs a year ago. If the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens again stumble, I believe the Browns will have a decent chance of slipping into the playoffs, especially with the league's seventh-easiest schedule.