It’s officially past the point of the Cleveland Browns football season where the games matter anymore. Instead of rooting for good teams ahead of the Browns in the standings to lose, now all that matters is if the bad teams below them win. Once again December football is meaningless on the shores of Lake Erie, but because we just can’t help but watch here are some things to keep an eye on.
Josh Gordon’s statistical superiority
Heading into week 14 Josh Gordon has amassed 1249 yards, leaving him 40 yards shy of Braylon Edwards single season franchise record of 1289. Edwards record setting season came over the course of 16 games while Gordon has come within one long play of breaking the record after playing in just 10 games. Gordon’s big play ability has him at 19.5 yards per catch, putting him second in the NFL behind the Saints’ Kenny Still who is averaging 20.6 yards per catch, but only over 23 catches.
Gordon not only has a chance to break the Browns’ single season mark for receiving yards, he has a real shot at leading the league in receiving yards. Currently Gordon sits third in the league, 50 yards behind Calvin Johnson and 28 yards behind Andre Johnson (with one game in hand). For a team who has been miserable to watch offensively for the last 14 season it would be a nice consolation price to boast the league’s leading receiver.
The number one defense in the NFL
Despite a 4-8 record the Browns still are tops in the league in yards allowed per play. Sunday’s game against New England could change all that, but if Ray Horton’s group can end the season on top that would be a nice block to build upon. While yards allowed and points allowed are commonly used to evaluate the strength of a defense both numbers will increase significantly with the number of plays a defense is on the field. The Browns’ d is averaging 4.4 yards per play, ranking them ahead of Seattle (4.5), Cincinnati (4.7), Arizona (4.7), and San Francisco (4.8). All of those top defenses are more than likely headed to the playoffs, while Ray Horton’s boys will watch from home.
Wins are the currency the NFL is run by, but statistical crowns are great for arguments in the bar when your friends are ragging on your favorite team.
While it’s almost impossible to openly root against your favorite team, the fact of the matter is the more losses the Browns have the better pick they’ll have in next spring’s draft. Currently the Browns sit 8th from bottom in the league standings, but the standings are a log jam. At 4-8 the Browns are still within one game of 13 other NFL teams in the standings. It’s time to start rooting as many upsets as possible around the league, and to not be too upset if the Browns play a few more games with Brandon Weeden or Alex Tanney at qb.
In addition to their own pick, the Browns have the Colt’s first round pick in next year’s draft. The Colts are currently slotted in at the 25th pick and thanks to the weakness of the AFC South have a playoff spot virtually locked up. With the Colts playoff bound, the best that pick can be is 21st. Time to root for more Colts losses and wins from the likes of Philly, Dallas, Arizona, Baltimore, and Miami.
Beating the Steelers
This was supposed to be the year the Browns finished above the Steelers in the standings. Roethlisberger himself called the Steelers the worst team in the NFL after an 0-4 start, yet with four games to go the Steelers have fives wins and the Browns have four. While a win in week 17 over the Steelers wouldn’t save the season it sure would save Clevelanders plenty of grief in the off season from those snaggletoothed Steelers fans.
The Browns are 1-6 against the Steelers in this decade, but a win in week 17 would give the Browns their second straight season split and give them a 3-3 division record to build off of heading into 2014.