2017 Browns vs. 2008 Lions: Which winless team is NFL’s worst?

Good Show discuss the Cleveland Browns, who face an interesting decision with four quarterbacks at the top of the draft class, and two early picks to use.

The Cleveland Browns have finally done it.

After finishing in last place in the AFC North for the seventh consecutive year — and the 13th time in the past 15 seasons — the 2017 Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16.

Now that there is a legitimate debate as to which squad is the worst to ever take the field, we decided to look at the stats to determine which team takes the dubious crown.

Offence

2008 Lions 2017 Browns
Points per game 16.8 (27th) 14.6 (32nd)
Yards per game 268.2 (30th) 308.9 (24th)
Rushing yards per game 83.2 (30th) 107.1 (18th)
Passing yards per game 185 (24th) 201.8 22nd)
Sacks taken 52 (31st) 50 (27th)
Turnovers 29 (23rd) 41 (32nd)

The Browns offence was more effective than the Lions in terms of yardage, out-gaining them by 40 per game. All told, the Browns weren’t completely useless offensively, finishing 24th in the NFL in yards per contest. What truly ended up costing Cleveland were the 41 turnovers, seven more than any other team in 2017.

Defence

2008 Lions 2017 Browns
Points allowed per game 32.3 (32nd) 25.6 (31st)
Yards allowed per game 404.4 (32nd) 328.1 (14th)
Rushing yards allowed per game 172.1 (32nd) 97.9 (7th)
Passing yards allowed per game 232.2 (27th) 230.2 (19th)
Sacks 30 (16th) 34 (21st)
Turnovers forced 20 (26th) 13 (32nd)

Defensively we see the Browns were a vastly superior unit to the Lions. Cleveland finished in the top half of the league when looking at total yards allowed, and their run defence ranked seventh at 97.9. The latter stat stands out considering the Browns were almost always playing from behind, meaning opponents would likely favour a ground-heavy attack to wear down the clock. Turnovers once again haunted the Browns as they were only able to force 13 — the fewest in the NFL.

Alternatively, the 2008 Lions were absolutely torched, surrendering a league-worst 404 yards per game. Detroit wasn’t able to stop the run whatsoever, allowing opposing ball carriers to rack up a whopping weekly average of 172 yards.

The verdict

Both teams have made their mark on NFL history in the worst way possible, but the 2017 Browns seem like the stronger of the two winless teams. Despite the appalling minus-28 turnover differential, the better defensive numbers ultimately give Cleveland the edge.

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