All that matters for the Cleveland Browns is that their record is 3-5. The fact that they are 2-1 in the AFC North is also an important piece of information.
Outside of the basic record information, there are a lot of other ways that a team can be discussed. Some do amazing jobs with film breakdown and analysis. Pro Football Focus has a grading system that many find useful. Even simple metrics like QBR, EPA, DVOA and the like provide context to what we see on the field.
In the end, all that matters is the team’s record but point differential is an interesting data point that can point to just how good or bad a team is. Combined for all the games played so far in a season, has a team scored more points than their opponent?
After a 19-point victory on Monday Night Football, the Browns have climbed back into a positive point differential (+1). Only 13 other teams currently have a positive differential.
Three teams with winning records and two others with .500 records have negative point differentials indicating they are not as good as their records show. Two teams, including Cleveland, with losing records and two .500 clubs have positive point differentials indicating they might be better than their record.
For many who play head-to-head fantasy football, this can be understood through that lens. Having a week where you score the second most points in your league but just happen to play the team that scored the most that week gives you a loss but doesn’t mean you have a bad team.
For the Browns, losing close games (that they should have won) backs up the positive point differential that we see through eight games. Now, as they did on Monday Night Football, they need to finish strong in order to get their record to match their differential.