It wasn't until Week 16 of the 2022 NFL season that the Cleveland Browns were finally eliminated from playoff contention. Yes, their playoff odds were less than 1%, but the team still wasn't technically eliminated until they lost to the New Orleans Saints on Christmas Eve. After the defeat, the Browns fell to 6-9.
So that means the Browns were still in playoff contention with six wins and just three games left to play. Looking back on how the 2022 season went for them, things could've very easily looked much different during the holidays. If Cleveland's defense and special teams could've avoided some colossal (and in some cases historic) collapses, what might have been the Browns record in Week 16?
The defense and special teams single-handedly cost the Browns four wins early in the season against the Jets, Falcons, Chargers, and Ravens. With just those four wins, they would've been 10-4 heading into the Saints game in Week 16. Let's take a trip down repressed-memory lane to look at how those four games could have (and should have) easily gone in the Browns favor.
Week 2: Browns vs the New York Jets
This one is the first and absolute worst of all the should-have-been wins for the Browns. Since 2001, teams have gone 229-0 when having a 13-point lead within two minutes remaining and no timeouts for their opponent. Cleveland was the 230th team in this situation, and the record now stands at 229-1.
What happened? Special teams and defensive breakdowns galore. In the final 1:55 of the game, the Browns managed to miss an extra point, give up a wide-open 66-yard touchdown pass, botch an onside-kick recovery, and give up a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Despite the display of sheer ineptitude by these units, the collapse was nevertheless impressive. You honestly don't see things like this happen anywhere outside of a movie, but the Browns found a way to bring fantasy into reality for the Jets.