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Most forgiving 2020 NFL schedules: Ravens, Bucs smiling

Naming the NFL's easiest schedules in early May is the closest I come to authoring pure fiction on this website.

The very nature of pro football promises a bundle of surprises -- both positive and ill -- between now and February. Quarterback injuries transform juggernauts into flotsam, something the Steelers learned firsthand a year ago. Meanwhile, a smattering of clubs we judge today as fly-by-night clown cars will invariably turn frisky down the stretch.

A year ago, who foresaw the loaded Chargers tumbling to 5-11? Or San Francisco gelling into an NFC ultra-heavy? It's especially tricky to gauge how teams such as the Bengals, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals will perform come autumn.

With my laundry list of caveats out of the way, let's press on to examine some of the league's most forgiving schedules for 2020.

Baltimore Ravens

Laced with the NFL's softest strength of schedule, the Ravens are tasked with just one occurrence of back-to-back road contests. They open the season at home against a Browns team with a newbie coaching staff and finish with manageable home dates against the Jaguars and Giants before visiting the Bengals in Week 17. The club's clash with Kansas City comes at home in Week 3, while Baltimore's much-anticipated revenge tilt against the Titans after last season's playoff loss to Tennessee also unfolds at M&T Bank Stadium. The bye lands nicely in Week 8.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The NFC South is no picnic. Still, the majority of Tampa's rougher out-of-division showdowns -- against the Packers, Rams, Chiefs and Vikings -- take place at Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady and friends must travel to Las Vegas, but Tampa was spared any voyage to the West Coast. They don't leave home between Week 11 and Week 14. Predictably stocked with prime-time games, the Bucs will play a whopping five night tilts between Week 5 and Week 11 -- but I like the schedule-makers giving this star-studded roster a month to heat up before shoving it under the lights.

The NFC West

My colleague Gregg Rosenthal is correct to point out Arizona's thorny slate, but the division overall is helped by facing an in-progress AFC East. The Bills are playoff material, but you'd rather face the Jets and Dolphins than deal with Baltimore and Pittsburgh out of the AFC North. We don't know what the Patriots will become, but the days of dealing with Brady and Gronk in Foxborough now float away in the rear-view mirror.

Chicago Bears

I'm unconvinced the Bears are playoff material, but I don't despise their schedule. Chicago is set up for a solid start with games against the Lions, Giants and Falcons out of the gate. Instead of visiting ice-cold Green Bay in Week 17, the Bears will grapple with the Packers at Soldier Field.

Cleveland Browns

With the league's fourth-softest schedule, the Browns are asked to visit Baltimore in Week 1. Not much fun, but home dates against the Bengals and Redskins come next. Beyond an always-thorny division slate, the Browns face some of their toughest opponents -- the Texans, Eagles and Colts -- at home. Baker Mayfield's two prime-time dates against the Bengals and Ravens also come at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns don't leave home between Week 8 and Week 11 and close in Cleveland against the Steelers. The question is whether that encounter will mean anything in terms of a playoff bid.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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