2020 Browns negative point differential due to “garbage time” play

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The 2020 Cleveland Browns season was a roaring success in many ways…

  • Winning record

  • Playoff appearance

  • Playoff victory

  • Establishing a culture

  • “Franchise QB” in place

… and many others.

For the more pessimistic (some would say realistic) there has been one concerning number that keeps popping up: point differential.

The Browns were negative 11 in point differential in 2020. The Browns were the only winning team with a negative point differential. Two teams with .500 records and one with a losing record put up a positive point differential on the season. The Browns were only three points better than the 6 – 10 San Francisco 49ers in 2020.

Needless to say, the Browns were the only playoff team with a negative point differential.

Point differential is one way to look at how good a team was overall. Did they get lucky in some close games? Did they barely beat bad teams but get blown out by good teams? In a lot of ways, point differential can help understand if a team’s record was based on their opponents or their own quality.

The Browns -11 presents concerns that their 11 wins were not based on the quality of their team.

New information put together by Anthony Reinhard argues that the Browns differential was more due to opponents scoring when a game was out of reach:

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If the Browns had returned the same team as last year, the point differential may have been a bit concerning. Instead, the Browns attacked their needs on defense while adding speed to the offense.

The 2021 Browns should be far different than the 2020 Browns, in a good way. Hopefully that presents itself in the point differential as well.