(UPDATE: The article below was written before the Browns beat San Diego on Saturday, Dec. 14. The team now has a record of 1-14.)
A few weeks ago, when Cleveland was merely 0-11, we gave them a 32 percent chance of finishing the season winless. Since then, they’ve suffered double-digit losses to the Giants, Bengals and Bills. Based on their current Elo rating — which is the worst in the NFL since the 2009 Lions plunged even lower than the winless 2008 squad — we give them a 31 percent chance of beating the Chargers this week, and just a 7 percent chance of winning in Pittsburgh in Week 17. Their chances of going 0-16 have risen to 65 percent.1
It’s not all bad news for Browns fans, though. If they lose to the Chargers and the 49ers win or tie, they’ll lock up the No. 1 overall draft pick. They still have the NFL’s best offensive tackle in Joe Thomas, although they’ve likely wasted his career peak. Plus the Cavaliers and Indians have been pretty great recently, so why get greedy?
And while it’s probably not much consolation, this Browns team has been unlucky as far as winless squads go. They’ve been outscored by an average of 13.4 points per game, which is terrible but not “one of the worst teams of all time” terrible. Based on seasons since 1960, we’d expect teams with a -13.4 margin of victory to have an average of 1.9 wins over their first 14 games. 2 In fact, the Browns currently rank as only the 37th-worst team since 1960 by margin of victory, far better than the infamous 1976 Bucs, 1960 Cowboys and 2008 Lions.
|YEAR||TEAM||W||L||T||MARGIN OF VICTORY|
|1||1976||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0||14||0||-20.5|
|2||1972||New England Patriots||3||11||0||-18.1|
|6||1966||New York Giants||1||12||1||-17.0|
|8||1990||New England Patriots||1||15||0||-16.6|
|9||2009||St. Louis Rams||1||15||0||-16.3|
|18||1976||New York Jets||3||11||0||-15.3|
|23||1986||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2||14||0||-14.6|
|25||2008||St. Louis Rams||2||14||0||-14.6|
|30||1973||San Diego Chargers||2||11||1||-14.1|
|32||1975||New Orleans Saints||2||12||0||-13.9|
|34||1963||San Francisco 49ers||2||12||0||-13.8|
The Browns still have time, though. If they lose their final two games by a mere 141 total points, their 0-16 record and -20.6 margin of victory will assure them the title of worst team in NFL history.
Check out our latest NFL predictions.