2016 NFL Predictions: Are the Browns Destined to go 0-16?

by Kevin Roberts
on October 18, 2016

This year has not been kind to the Cleveland Browns. They seemed to finally be doing all the right things to turn their franchise around, too. They brought in a bright offensive mind in new head coach Hue Jackson, they let go of troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel and other cancerous talent and they seemed to have drafted well.

None of that prepared them for what was to come, however. Reclamation project Robert Griffin III struggled in week one and then was lost for (what seems to be) the season with a shoulder injury. Then they lost top backup Josh McCown one week later to his own injury and in the weeks that followed lost star rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman and officially severed ties with suspended receiver, Josh Gordon.

It just hasn’t been good for the Browns, who stand in at 0-6 after six weeks, still in search for that elusive first win despite playing most of their games fairly close (four of six have been decided by 11 points or less, with three decided by 6 or less).

Cleveland can’t stop opposing offenses with any regularity, they’re down to their third string quarterback and their top wide receiver at the moment is a converted quarterback, Terrelle Pryor.

They even were well on their way to a win and had this happen to them:

Despite all of the horror, Cleveland seems to be inching closer to that first win and hopefully finding a way to stave off that dreaded 0-16 record that only the 2008 Detroit Lions have had the misfortune of enduring.

0-16 Lions Are Eery Comparison

The slip from 0-6 to 0-16 isn’t that far away, unfortunately. It only takes one quick look at that 0-16 Lions team to realize how painfully close Cleveland might be to repeating the type of history no team should ever experience.

That Lions team had something the Browns simply don’t, though: an elite talent in Calvin Johnson. They even had a veteran quarterback in Jon Kitna to start the year and a serviceable running back in Kevin Smith, who piled on over 1,200 total yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage.

Smith and Megatron weren’t enough to get Detroit even one win, of course, as the Lions’ defense was one of the worst (allowing over 32 points per game) the NFL has ever seen and a rotation at quarterback involving young passers in Drew Stanton and Dan Orlovsky didn’t help matters.

The one thing Detroit did that makes this comparison all the more compelling, though? They competed.

As bad as the Lions were, they held tight in several contests, with their closest loss coming in a week six defeat (12-10) by the hands of the division rival Minnesota Vikings.

Detroit would get blown out several times during their awful 0-16 run, but they managed to keep themselves within one score in five of their 16 losses.

Like those dreadful Lions, the Browns have been competitive and are short on talent. Are they then headed for the same season trajectory?

Brutal Division

That’s tough to say, but one thing that doesn’t help is a pretty tough AFC North division. The Pittsburgh Steelers look like one of the best teams in the league this year and Cleveland gets them twice. They don’t face off for the first time this year until November 20th, however, when an injured Ben Roethlisberger (knee) will surely be back.

The Bengals and Ravens haven’t lit the NFL on fire in 2016, but both represent tough challenges for the Browns, regardless. Baltimore already edged the Browns out in week two this year, but that still gives the Browns three more tough games with the Ravens and Bengals, and five brutal AFC North battles remaining on their schedule.

That’s bad news for a Cleveland franchise that has not fared well in their own division (1-5 last year, 2-4 in 2014 and 2-4 in 2013). It gets even worse as you go further back, but it’s fair to say this 2016 Browns team has far less talent and experience that their teams have enjoyed in past years.

Suffice to say, navigating a tough division with three solid teams that have their eye on the playoffs won’t be easy. That rough division schedule even continues this week, when the Browns head to Cincinnati for a huge road test. The Bengals don’t look imposing at 2-4, but badly need a big win to turn their season around and will undoubtedly be massive favorites to pull out the win at home.

Tough Overall Schedule

The hard pill to swallow is there really isn’t an “easy” game on Cleveland’s schedule. There isn’t a game that stands out as “yep, they’re going to win that one”.

The only matchup that could be even remotely favorable could be a week 8 date with the New York Jets, who are struggling immensely at 1-5. While that could be a good spot for Cleveland to get their first win, it’s still a tough spot consider the Jets simply have way more talent.

The rest of Cleveland’s non-divisional schedule consists of matchups with the Bills, Cowboys, Giants and Chargers. You could make mild cases for upsets of the Giants and Chargers due to their own inconsistent ways, but a matchup with the Browns would not be an ideal spot to pick against those teams.

Betting on the Browns

It does not look good for the Browns, who currently sport insane +500000 Super Bowl odds at Bovada. Obviously they’re not making the playoffs this year – let alone going on some wild title run – but it’s worth pointing out crazy odds when they’re available.

The real bet will be on Cleveland’s first win – if they get one – as they’ll surely continue to be big underdogs for the majority of the year on a weekly basis. As tough as their division is, that could be a good spot to toss a cursory bet on them, simply because they did play the Ravens pretty well and teams tend to get up for big divisional battles.

Beyond a random divisional upset win, Cleveland would also be in play to take down less reliable teams like the Jets, Giants or Chargers.

This is not a team that is going to go on a tear and heat up. They don’t have the talent or experience for it. It’s even possible they break at some point and then that “are the Browns going to go 0-16?” conversation comes into play.

We wouldn’t seriously bet on the Browns going winless until way later in the year, when they’re sitting around 0-10 or so. At that point, they’ll have faced the Jets and worked their way through two key AFC North contests. If they’re still winless at that point, the likelihood of six more losses and an 0-16 run would improve greatly.

Browns 0-16 Prediction

That being said, the Browns going 0-16 really isn’t that likely. They’ve remained quite competitive and should get more comfortable in Hue Jackson’s system as the season goes on. If the team continues to buy into Jackson’s message and system, they could get closer to that first win and maybe even add 1-2 more before the year is up.

The simulators agree, too, ahead of week six.

The fact that the Browns play teams closely could give them a chance to spring a freak play and earn a random win. They still have 10 more shots to do so, and the ball is bound to bounce their way at least once.

After all, the Browns should only get healthier before the season is over, too. Star rookie Corey Coleman (hand) will eventually be back, while quarterbacks Josh McCown and/or RG3 could also return to the starting lineup at some point.

Even if they don’t, the development of raw rookie passer Cody Kessler has been obvious. Terrelle Pryor has also slowly gone from a gimmick to one of the better big play receivers in all of football. If that maturation process continues and the Browns don’t bail on Hue Jackson, they’ll eventually get their first win of 2016.

Our bet? Cleveland evens up with a reeling Jets team in week eight.

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