The 2008 Browns were coming off a surprise 10-6 season fueled by a schedule littered with cupcakes, most notably out of the NFC West. They failed to make the playoffs, however, and the sledding then got much tougher as their out-of-conference match-ups switched to the NFC East.
This year, the Browns will again be facing the NFC East. They didn’t take advantage of their soft NFC West schedule last year (they were the only AFC North team to not make the playoffs), and now, what other ghastly similarities to 2008 await us this season?
- One of the signature losses of 2008 featured the Browns’ humiliation at Hines Field in the season finale. They lost 31-0, with Bruce Gradkowski passing for a team-high 18 yards. Don’t look now, but the Browns finish the 2012 season in Pittsburgh, too.
- Speaking of Pittsburgh, while the Browns crumbled under a devastating schedule in 2008, the Steelers thrived, winning the Super Bowl as a battle-hardened team that survived the toughest schedule in the NFL that year. Wouldn’t it just be their style to not get old this year?
- Another signature loss of the 2008 season (how many can you count?) came at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in Cleveland, Week Nine. The Browns may have been one Braylon Edwards drop away from victory as opposed to one Terrell Suggs interception from a loss. As a result, Derek Anderson lost the starting quarterback job to Brady Quinn. Anyway, the Ravens will be in Cleveland Week Nine of this year, too.
- The Browns opened the 2008 season at home against the NFC East favorite Dallas Cowboys and were defeated handily, 28-10. They open at home against the Eagles this year, whom many are picking to win the NFC East this time around.
- In 2008, the Browns also faced the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts from the other AFC divisions as they will again in 2012. They were only able to defeat the Bills – on national TV, no less. The Browns play one national TV game this year against the Ravens in Week Four, compared to five national TV spots in 2008.
- The Browns did manage a signature victory in 2008, when they crushed the defending champion New York Giants on Monday Night Football in their fifth game of the season. Memo to gamblers: the Browns play the Giants this year too, again coming off a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots and, get this, in the fifth game of the season. Oh boy.
In all, the 2008 Browns finished 4-12, 1-5 against the AFC North, and lost games of 10-6, 14-11, 16-6, 10-6, and 14-0 in an unusually rainy season. They changed starting quarterbacks four times (fans booed one off the field with a broken leg), and by the end their general manager and head coach had been fired. It was a season of high hopes dashed.
I’ll go out on a limb and guarantee that no matter how bleak the 2012 schedule looks right now, there is no way this Browns season will be that bad again.