The Cleveland Browns remain winless through 11 weeks of the 2016 NFL season, but history suggests it’s unlikely they’ll finish with an 0-16 record.
The only team in NFL history to go 0-16 was the 2008 Detroit Lions, and while three other teams since 1944 have remained winless throughout an entire season, each did so during seasons with fewer than 16 games.
The Dallas Cowboys were winless in their debut season in 1960, going 0-11-1. The Buccaneers went 0-14 in Tampa Bay’s first season in 1976, and then started the following season 0-12 before the Bucs finally won a game. In 1982, the Baltimore Colts went 0-8-1 in a season that was truncated because of a player strike.
So, the good news for the Browns is that finishing the 2016 season without a single win is unlikely. Cleveland will almost certainly win at least one game this season. It’s just a matter of waiting to see which team the Browns are facing and how it actually comes to pass.
They’ll pull off a win over their in-state rival
The Browns finally get a bye in Week 13, and they need it. With injury after injury to quarterbacks and loss after loss starting to wear on Cleveland players, a week away to get healthy and rest up should prepare the Browns to come out strong in the Battle of Ohio against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.
The Bengals already beat the Browns in Week 7 by a score of 31-17, but Cincinnati rarely sweeps this series. The Browns have upset the Bengals in recent memory, pulling off a 24-3 win in 2014 and holding Andy Dalton to a passer rating of 2. When the teams met for the second time in 2014, the Bengals won 30-0. It’s usually an unpredictable matchup, which is a good thing for the Browns this time around.
Cincinnati is depleted by injury, with Giovanni Bernard and A.J. Green both going down with injuries in Week 11, and the Browns should be healthy, rested and prepared coming off the bye. A win over the Bengals would give Cleveland the satisfaction of beating their in-state rival and earning an AFC North win. After the season the Browns have had, they deserve it. — Jeanna Thomas
Knocking the Steelers out of the playoffs on New Year’s Day
Finishing the 2016 calendar year without a win would be totally worth it if it set up a hilarious start to 2017. Just imagine the 0-15 Browns traveling to face their AFC North-rival Pittsburgh Steelers who need a win to get in the playoffs. And then Cleveland spoils it all.
Likely? Meh ... probably not. But it’s a ton of fun to think about.
Cleveland is 6-36 in its last 42 games against the Steelers, so the history isn’t on their side, but Pittsburgh has been a weird team this year, getting blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles and then blowing out the Kansas City Chiefs in the next.
Maybe that’s a team primed for a crazy loss that keeps them from winning the AFC North? Who knows. — Adam Stites
Terrelle Pryor single-handedly beats his hometown team
Pryor has been basically the only good thing about the Browns all season. Like, dude could be a Pro Bowl wide receiver this season, just a year after making the transition from quarterback. Who is that freakishly athletic?! (I mean, OK, he’s not Antonio Brown/Julio Jones level of a Pro Bowler, but enough guys decline participating every year that he could represent the Browns in
Hawaii ugh, Orlando.)
All season long, despite the losses piling up, Pryor has been Pollyannish about the Browns. Until they were finally eliminated from playoff contention last week, he was still talking about Cleveland, and not the Indians or Cavs, playing in the postseason.
He’s used to winning. He won a lot of games at Ohio State, some of which still officially count. He won a state championship at his high school — in both football and basketball — in Jeannette, Penn., about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh.
So it was understandable that after that a 24-9 loss to the Steelers, Pryor seemed to reach his boiling point when he sounded off about his quarterbacks taking too many hits. Yet, he *still* said he wanted to help build the Browns into an empire.
And that’s why it’d be extra special for the Browns to beat the Steelers the next time they play, and for Pryor to do it all himself, half an hour from where he grew up.
Here’s how it goes down: The Browns are down 7, with less than a minute to go. The ball is at the Steelers’ 35-yard line. Pryor is under center for whatever reason — maybe Hue Jackson is unloading his bag of tricks in Week 17 or, more likely, every other capable passer on the Browns is injured. He takes the snap, he drops back to pass ... and one of the non-Joe Thomas bums on the offensive line gets in the way, and the ball ricochets off his back.
But Pryor is there to snatch the ball before it hits the ground. He cradles it and takes off, juking a Steelers defender and racing like a gazelle down the sideline for the touchdown.
Jackson doesn’t want this to go to overtime, though. He wants to win now. So he gives the Steelers a taste of their own medicine and goes for the two-point conversion. Pryor is still in at quarterback, and when the ball is snapped, he hesitates for the briefest of seconds — enough to fool the Pittsburgh defense into thinking he’s passing. Instead, Pryor runs it right up the gut for the two points, and the long overdue victory.
Forget about the drama of an 0-15 team with its last shot at a W. This is about Pryor deserving a win for a Browns team that, despite his recent frustrations and perhaps against his better judgment, he still believes in. — Sarah Hardy
A blocked extra point taken back for two points in Week 17
The build-up of a Browns team at 0-15 would be absolutely perfect. We already anticipated the Browns being awful this season, and they’re absolutely living up to those expectations in ways that we probably couldn’t have even imagined.
So, Week 17 arrives, the Browns are in Pittsburgh taking on the Steelers, and they are somehow in the game. Let’s say the score is 17-16 Steelers after an Antonio Brown touchdown reception with one second left on the clock. Mike Tomlin, typically one of the smarter coaches in the NFL, doesn’t think to just take a knee on the extra point, and instead, breaks his habit of going for two, and lines up for a field goal.
That extra point is blocked, and the Browns scoop it up and take it back for two points in a similar fashion to what the Broncos did to the Saints. It would be one of the single best moments for all of us who partake in NFL Twitter. — Harry Lyles Jr.