Don't forget that at 7pm tonight on the NFL Network and NFL.com, the league is releasing its 2009 regular season schedule. I will be sitting in front of the TV, as practice for Draft Day, to see what the schedule-makers have in store for us this season. Knowing that they always seem to show their distaste for the Baltimore Ravens by placing them in prime time as visitors at the worst possible time (team reunions, last games in stadium's history), hoping to see us get our blocks knocked off, I certainly expect a few unibrow-raising dates on our schedule.
However, you will see a schedule that is rated by the NFL as the 28th toughest in the league, based on 2008 records. The combined record of our 2009 opponents is 111-143-2 (.438). By comparison, the AFC North and Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers are facing teams with a combined record of 110-144 (.434), good for the 29th toughest schedule in the NFL. Of course, having to twice play both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals certainly has a lot to do with skewing that winning percentage downwards for both us and the Steelers.At the same time, both the Browns (25th) and Bengals (22nd) play relatively easy schedules next season as well, sort of also skewed by having to play each other.
The easiest schedule in the league in 2009 belongs to the Chicago Bears, whose opponents had a sorry record of 105-149-2 (.414), while the league's toughest schedule is reward for the Miami Dolphins surprising 2008 season. The 'fins play teams with a combined record of a blistering 152-104 record (.594), the 3rd toughest schedule in the NFL since 2003 based on opponent's winning percentage.
If you want to read an interesting blog on ESPN, check out James Walker's AFC North blog on "Five Schedule Wishes" by clicking here. You'll agree with his tongue-in-cheek comments about the interesting scheduling tendencies of certain teams in the AFC North.