The Cleveland Browns will grab their first AFC North Division title in 2019 but see their season come to an end in a ridiculous fashion in the playoffs.
At least that is the way that ESPN.com sees it, which simulated the upcoming season 20,000 times using its own Football Power Index. Wondering what the heck the Football Power Index is? According to ESPN.com:
“At its core, NFL FPI is a prediction system for the NFL. Each team’s FPI rating is composed of a predicted offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency, as measured by expected points added per play, and that rating is the basis for FPI’s game-level and season-level projections.”
The site then took one of those 20,000 season-long simulations and played out the entire 267-game NFL season. When all was done and dusted, the simulation had the Browns finishing the season with a 10-6 record, good enough for the division title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Highlights of the simulated season include:
- A 4-0 start to the year, with the Browns closing out the streak with a 45-17 beating of the Baltimore Ravens.
- A 5-1 record heading into the bye week, with Cleveland’s only loss coming on the road to the San Francisco 49ers.
- A three-game losing streak coming out of the bye, which somehow includes a home loss to the Buffalo Bills.
- A Week 16 loss to the Ravens where the Browns for some reason gave up 51 points.
- A division-clinching win on the season’s final weekend.
Outside of a few quibbles here and there, the simulation broke down the regular season fairly well, especially when it came to the divisional games. ESPN has the Browns splitting with the Steelers and the Ravens, while sweeping the Bengals, to give the year at 4-2 in the AFC North. That is likely the minimum that Cleveland will need if they are serious about making the playoffs this year.
Speaking of the playoffs, the simulation goes off the rails when it comes to Wildcard Weekend.
As the No. 3 seed, the Browns land a home playoff game for the first time since 1994. In that game the Browns face the Tennessee Titans - a team the Browns beat in Week 1 by a score of 29-23 - but the season comes to an end in absurd fashion:
Titans 10, (3) Browns 9: Oh, Browns. Even in the postseason, they find a way to torture their fan base. After a successful regular season, they get a winnable home game in the playoffs against a Titans team that is better than we all thought, but the offense sputters at the worst time. Three field goals is all they can muster in a loss to Tennessee’s top-five defense.
Unless the Browns top offensive players all miss the game with the flu, it is hard to see the Browns only managing three field goals in a game.
What do you think, Browns fans? What did ESPN’s simulation get right, or wrong, about the upcoming season?