The Cleveland Browns may have been talking a good game after defeating the Baltimore Ravens on October 7, but deep down it was never realistic to expect them to compete for a playoff spot this year.
Even accepting that, they also likely never expected to be competing for the No. 1 overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft for the third consecutive year.
But that is where the team finds itself today after losing on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The loss, Cleveland’s fourth consecutive defeat, leaves the Browns at 2-6-1 on the season. That currently puts them in the No. 6 overall spot in 2019 NFL Draft, but the Browns have ample opportunities left this season to “improve” on that position, if you will.
In fact, according to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss, the Browns currently hold the second-best chance in the league to lose their remaining games:
The Cardinals have the highest chance of losing out this season at 14.2 percent, according to the ESPN NFL Football Power Index.— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) November 5, 2018
The Browns have the second-highest chance at 10.5% and the Raiders are third with a 10% chance.
If they do that - and for a team that has not won a November game since 2014 and has only two wins in a December game in the same time period that’s not a herculean task - the Browns will once again be in the running for the top pick, and would certainly be selecting no later than No. 3 overall, although they will need some help.
Looking at the league’s other two-win teams - the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills - the 49ers seem the best bet to pick up a third win this season as they take on the New York Giants (1-7) next week on Monday Night Football. (And won’t that be a rating’s bonanza?)
It might be difficult for the Bills to pick up another win, but they do have two games left with the New York Jets, so a split of those two match ups is not out of the realm of possibility.
The Cardinals are a bit trickier, especially given that they have the league’s best chance at losing the rest of the way, although they do face the Oakland Raiders on November 18, which is a winnable game for any team not coached by Hue Jackson.
The Raiders and the Giants are obstacles the Browns may not be able to overcome, however. The Giants do not appear to have a winnable game left on their schedule, nor do the Raiders.
And even if one or both of those teams managed to win a second game, that pesky tie from Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers would come back to bite the Browns, as a final record of 2-13-1 would lose out on a tiebreaker to a Giants or Raiders team that was 2-14.
No Browns fans should root for the team to lose, of course, and it would be hard to stomach watching the team stumble its way through another depressing second-half of the season.
But landing another high draft pick could be just enough of an elixir to ease some of that pain.