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Are The Browns Really Going To Go 0-16? (Update: No.)

(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.)


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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

fischerbaum-brownsupdate-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.

RECORD
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
3 1973 Houston Oilers 1 13 0 -17.7
4 1967 Atlanta Falcons 1 12 1 -17.6
5 1981 Baltimore Colts 2 14 0 -17.1
6 1966 New York Giants 1 12 1 -17.0
7 1966 Atlanta Falcons 3 11 0 -16.6
8 1990 New England Patriots 1 15 0 -16.6
9 2009 St. Louis Rams 1 15 0 -16.3
10 2000 Cleveland Browns 3 13 0 -16.1
11 1960 Dallas Cowboys 0 11 1 -16.0
12 1961 Oakland Raiders 2 12 0 -15.8
13 1968 Atlanta Falcons 2 12 0 -15.6
14 1961 Washington Redskins 1 12 1 -15.6
15 2008 Detroit Lions 0 16 0 -15.6
16 1972 Houston Oilers 1 13 0 -15.4
17 1987 Atlanta Falcons 3 12 0 -15.4
18 1976 New York Jets 3 11 0 -15.3
19 1970 Boston Patriots 2 12 0 -15.1
20 1971 Buffalo Bills 1 13 0 -15.0
21 1991 Indianapolis Colts 1 15 0 -14.9
22 1972 Philadelphia Eagles 2 11 1 -14.8
23 1990 Cleveland Browns 3 13 0 -14.6
23 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 14 0 -14.6
25 2008 St. Louis Rams 2 14 0 -14.6
25 2000 Arizona Cardinals 3 13 0 -14.6
27 2009 Detroit Lions 2 14 0 -14.5
28 1976 Seattle Seahawks 2 12 0 -14.3
29 2003 Arizona Cardinals 4 12 0 -14.2
30 1973 San Diego Chargers 2 11 1 -14.1
30 1964 Denver Broncos 2 11 1 -14.1
32 1975 New Orleans Saints 2 12 0 -13.9
32 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers 2 12 0 -13.9
34 1963 San Francisco 49ers 2 12 0 -13.8
35 1999 Cleveland Browns 2 14 0 -13.8
36 1982 Baltimore Colts 0 8 1 -13.7
37 2016 Cleveland Browns 0 14 0 -13.4
37 1975 Chicago Bears 4 10 0 -13.4
37 1967 Miami Dolphins 4 10 0 -13.4
Worst NFL seasons by average margin of victory, 1960-present

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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.

Footnotes

  1. This accounts for the fact that their Elo rating will likely drop after playing the Chargers, if you’re wondering why their percentage isn’t just (chance of losing to SD) * (chance of losing to PIT).
  2. Since 1960, and counting ties as half a win, the relationship between winning percentage and margin of victory has been win_per = 0.5 + mov * 0.027.

Reuben Fischer-Baum is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

Filed under NFL 340 posts, Cleveland Browns 16, Shortform 9

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