Browns Strength of Schedule Tells a Bad Tale
As we all relax, recover or return to work from our Christmas fun, the Cleveland Browns prepare for their last game of the season. The Browns season provided unreal expectations with early success and has come to an end in familiar fashion; no playoffs and possibly a 3rd string quarterback playing in the last game.
As we prepare once again for the NFL Draft we return to looking at Strength of Schedule, the tie breaker for teams who did not make the playoffs. Currently the 7 – 8 Browns are tied with the San Francisco 49ers, who likely are more shocked/angry with their record than the Browns.
The results of Sunday’s game could create some interesting situations for the Browns draft. There are five teams with 6 – 9 records. One of them, the Atlanta Falconsï¿½will make the playoffs with a win and be replaced by the Carolina Panthers, whom they play. If the other four teams win, and the Browns lose, there could be a 5 or 6 team tiebreaker.
The same type of deal is possible should the Browns win and the four 8 – 7 teams lose, although one of those teams is the Buffalo Bills and the Browns own their pick.
The highest the Browns can pick is #8 and the lowest is #18 but that is where Strength of Schedule (SOS) comes into play. For draft purposes SOS is used to break tiebreakers based on a simple premise: If you played an easier schedule, but still have the same record as another team, you obviously are worse than that team.
The good news for the Browns Draft hopes is that they have the lowest SOS of any team with 7 wins or less. With a 0.4685 the Browns would currently only lose the tiebreaker to the Houston Texans, SOS 0.4456. Currently the Browns have the 4th easiest schedule behind only the Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
And that great news for the Browns draft hopes is also the sad news of their season: Their schedule was relatively easy and they didn’t take advantage of it. The bad news of the Browns season, and concern for next year, is that their record, good for them, could be less due to their talent and more due their competition.
The Browns victories this season have come against teams with the following amount of wins heading into Week 17: 6, 2, 10, 3, 2, 10, and 6. The Browns only have victories over two teams with winning records and three of their victories are over teams with 2 or 3 wins. The team also has losses against the three win Jacksonville Jaguars and the six win Houston Texans.
So it begs the difficult question: Should the Browns have won more games based on their schedule alone? The three teams that faced an easier schedule, HOU, PIT and DAL, all had better records including 10 and 11 win seasons for the playoff bound Steelers and Cowboys. The Texans also still have an outside chance to make the playoffs.
Does the easy schedule actually show that the Browns are far worse than their record? If the Browns faced a SOS closer to .500 would they be fighting for a Top 5 draft pick instead of having hope for a .500 record? A similar easy schedule led to the Browns 10 – 6 record in 2007 but they were unable to build on that season, partially due to their record being inflated by their easy schedule.
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So while we have a ton of hope moving forward, and article that we hope to have to you today, we have to throw a dash of cold water on the positive steps we have seen in the Win-Loss columns. While many Browns fans are upset how the season has ended, we are more concerned with how the SOS could inflate the hopes of the team, the front office, the owner and the fans.
Finishing last in the AFC North, we must note how great the division has been this season, means the Browns will be scheduled against the lesser opponents of the possible options next year. That could help their record, as well as building their confidence.
However, for now, while we will celebrate that the Browns easy SOS will break tiebreakers in their favor for the NFL Draft, it also leads to more concerns about their 7 wins so far this season. How inflated are they by the easy SOS?
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What do you think about the Browns Strength of Schedule and it’s impact on their record this season?