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The NFL schedule has finally been released, as every team finally knows when they play their opponents (instead of just knowing their opponents on the schedule). Some teams already had a difficult strength of schedule prior to knowing when they were going to face their opponents, making their path to the playoffs even more difficult. 

If these teams are going to make the postseason, they are going to earn it. The schedule did none of these teams any favors, even if these teams are good enough to make the playoffs. 

Which teams have a tough road ahead in 2024? Here are five teams to keep an eye on thanks to their grueling schedule:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers already had a tough schedule based on the opponents they face, adding to the grueling AFC North slate that features the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns. Here's a catch, the Steelers don't play an AFC North opponent until Week 11 -- which is where the schedule gets really difficult. 

Pittsburgh plays six AFC North opponents in its final eight games, with the non-division games sandwiched between them being the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers also play the Saturday-Wednesday slate in Weeks 16 and 17 by virtue of playing on Christmas. 

The Steelers also play three of their first four games on the road. Bottom line, Pittsburgh needs a fast start before the gauntlet of the schedule. 

2. Buffalo Bills

The Bills get three playoff teams in their first four games (three consecutive), all of which are in prime time. While a fast start is imperative for Buffalo with the early-season test, the Bills are one of just four teams with three consecutive games on the slate (at Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Houston Texans in Weeks 4 through 6).

Buffalo plays four prime-time games in the first six weeks (at Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets), with C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans mixed into that. 

This is arguably the toughest opening stretch in the NFL

3. Cleveland Browns

The Browns have the toughest opponent strength of schedule in 2024 at .547, so they were likely going to end up on this list regardless. The schedule makers did Cleveland little favors. Like the Bills, the Browns play three consecutive road games (Weeks 4 through 6), but make that up with three straight home games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and Los Angeles Chargers.

The daunting part of the schedule comes after the Week 10 bye week, as five of the final eight games are on the road. Two of those games are on a short week (Thursday Night Football) and are division games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (home) and Cincinnati Bengals (road). 

Will be impressive if Cleveland gets to double-digit wins. 

4. Baltimore Ravens

Notice the theme with AFC North teams here? The Ravens will play 10 games against 2023 playoff teams, easily the highest in the NFL. Baltimore will also play 12 games against teams that finished .500 or better last season, tied with Cleveland for the most in the league. 

The Ravens also have the latest bye in the NFL (Week 14), followed by three games in 10 days during the homestretch of the season -- two of which are against of playoff teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans). 

Baltimore will be tested throughout the season, but this schedule could be easier based on how teams play over the course of the year. 

5. Minnesota Vikings 

Minnesota doesn't have a tough opponents' strength of schedule (.502), yet has a rookie quarterback facing a good NFC North with the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. The Vikings start off with the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans in Week 2 and 3, although both are at home. 

The early portion of the schedule doesn't get easier with the Packers on the road, followed by the New York Jets in London. After an early Week 6 bye, the Vikings host the Detroit Lions then face the Los Angeles Rams in "Thursday Night Football" on the road. 

Minnesota also plays three straight games on the road in Weeks 10 through 12 (Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears) and finish off hosting the Packers and on the road against the Lions. 

The opponents may not be daunting based on opponents' win percentage, but this is a less-than-favorable schedule.