Last week, after falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 38-7 blowout, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said that being 4-2 never felt so much like being 0-6 before. The Browns, of course, were 4-1 heading into that game and looking for the first time in decades like a possible contender before the Steelers played Lucy with the football to Cleveland’s Charlie Brown.
Unfortunately for the Browns, there is some merit to Mayfield’s moaning. With their 31-point loss, they suddenly have a substantially negative points differential at minus-24. According to Elias, this is the seventh occurrence of a team with a record of 4-2 or better to have a points differential that low, and each previous team failed to reach the playoffs.
In regard to Baker saying “4-2 has never felt so much like 0-6”: Per Elias, #Browns are the 7th team ever to be 4-2 or better through first 6 games w/ a point differential of -24 or worse. None of the previous 6 teams went on to make the playoffs… @ESPNStatsInfo pic.twitter.com/q6DzI0rlJ7
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 21, 2020
For the Browns, that wouldn’t be anything new, of course. They have not been to the postseason since 2002, and that year, they lost to Tommy Maddox and the Steelers in the wildcard round. That was also the first of only two times since their return to the league in 1999 that they posted a non-losing record, going 9-7. They went 10-6 in 2007, but did not make the playoffs.
Of course, it has to be added that the playoffs are different this year. The NFL added a third wildcard seed to either conference, to that means seven teams per conference, including three non-division winners, will advance.
If the season ended right now, the Browns would own the sixth seed, as they hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Indianapolis Colts, who so far are the only quality opponent they have defeated. Their other two quality opponents, the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, completely pantsed them.
Interestingly, the Browns’ minus-24 points differential is actually the 10th-worst in the entire NFL, and they are one of just three teams with a winning record and a negative differential. The 4-2 Buffalo Bills are at minus 10, while the 3-2 Las Vegas Raiders are at minus one.
In case you’re wondering, the Steelers have a plus-62 points differential, which is the second-highest in the league, behind only the Ravens, who own a plus-75 points differential. Having played one more game than the Steelers, however, if Pittsburgh can beat the Tennessee Titans by two touchdowns today, they would have the best differential.
Of course, this is only relevant for tiebreakers, and you can put yourself in the position of not worrying about tiebreakers by simply winning games. The Steelers can make sure after today that they are the only team that is undefeated in the AFC.
As for the Browns, they have been blown out twice by a combined 63 points in their two losses, but they can certainly recover. They have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the league, though they still have to face the Steelers and Ravens again, as well as the Titans.