With the new 17-game schedule in the NFL, gone are the days of going .500.
Teams will either have a winning or losing record.
But some will benefit in varying years with the schedule change.
With an odd number of games, some teams have more home games than road games.
This season, the Cleveland Browns will play at home nine times compared to just eight on the road.
The Browns were a solid team on the road in 2020, going 5-3 away from home.
Will Cleveland sustain that road success in 2021?
Buy: Road Warriors Once Again
Cleveland’s 5-3 road record in 2020 should have been 6-2 truth be told.
A Week 16 blunder against the Jets in which the Browns had a whole receiving unit missing almost came back to bite the team.
The play of Baker Mayfield while away from First Energy Stadium last year should also stand out.
On the road in 2020, Mayfield threw 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
His completion percentage of 65% was better than it was at home (59%).
His 102.7 QB rating was also about 15 points better than it was in games in Cleveland.
While Baker did tally about 40 more attempts on the road compared to home games, the numbers are impressive.
His performance against the Titans in Tennessee stands out.
Baker Mayfield had 4 Pass TD in the 1st half at the Titans, the 2nd time this season he's recorded 4 Pass TD in a half (Week 7 at CIN, 2nd half). No one else in the NFL has had a half with 4 Pass TD this season.
The Browns' 38 points are their most in a half in franchise history pic.twitter.com/xzDQeiKR5Q
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 6, 2020
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) December 6, 2020
The composure needed to win on the road starts with your quarterback.
If the signal caller starts to unwind, the rest of the team isn’t far behind.
The run game Mayfield has to work with plays a huge role as well.
Nick Chubb’s home-road splits favor his at-home numbers, but he was still effective while traveling too.
The same can be said of Kareem Hunt.
Defensively the team struggled as a whole in 2020.
On the road they were a bit worse, allowing 240 points in those games and just 182 points at home.
That side of the ball is much healthier this season for Cleveland and saw upgrades in several positions.
Getting over .500 shouldn’t be an issue for the Browns this season.
Sell: Out of Town Struggles
Going into last season, the Browns had the 29th toughest schedule (so, 4th easiest) in football.
This year, they have the 9th toughest.
That’s a drastic difference from just one season ago.
The season lid lifter, a battle with the Chiefs in Kansas City, will be the toughest game of the season on paper.
Trips to Green Bay, Minnesota, and New England will all be tough games.
Of course, the divisional battles in Baltimore and Pittsburgh provide their challenges.
Even the Bengals almost stole their home game against the Browns last year if it wasn’t for some late Donovan Peoples-Jones and Baker Mayfield heroics.
— The Hottest Take Sports Podcast (@Hottest_TakePod) March 6, 2021
While injuries and COVID-19 issues are hopefully not as prevalent this year, the added difficulty on the schedule is what could hurt the Browns’ road record.
Back to back road games in Week’s 16 and 17 against Green Bay and Pittsburgh respectively (both are “prime time” games) could be the difference maker between hitting .500 or not.
Sound defensive football will be the key to Cleveland’s road success or failures this year.
It was the area in need of the most improvement after last season, and Andrew Berry delivered.
Getting off the field on third down on the road is huge in the NFL, especially with offenses as talented as they are.
Cleveland will visit some good offensive teams this season starting with the Chiefs in the opener.
It will be a great test for the defense and could help set the tone for the rest of the season.