Today at breakfast, I was looking at the 1965 NFL season on pro-football-reference.com. Striking find of the day: The Cleveland Browns that year made it to the NFL championship game, losing to the Packers 23-12. The Packers, of course, had a winning record that year - and they were the ONLY Browns opponent to do so! That's right: all 14 of the Browns' opponents had finished the year 7-7 or worse.
How did this happen? The NFL back then, pre-merger with the AFL, had 14 teams, seven in the East division and seven in the West. Teams played 14 games, 12 in their own division and just two against the opposite division. The standings show the West as the much stronger division that year. Since there were so few interdivision games, this means the West must have really slaughtered the East in those games, so I checked. Yep, there were 14 interdivision games in the NFL in 1965, and the East won only one of them. The Browns were the only East team to finish above 7-7, and their two opponents from the West were the Vikings (7-7) and the Rams (4-10), both of whom the Browns lost to. Nor were the Browns particularly dominant when they did win. They scored just 38 points more than they allowed, though that is skewed by the late-season 42-7 loss to the Rams, where the Browns had already clinched the East and were playing backups. Even with that, this is an 11-3 team playing a historically wimpy schedule and performing more like a 9-5 team while doing it. Had the Browns played in the West, I bet they'd have struggled to finish .500.