A New Cleveland

Perhaps disappointment would be an apt initial reaction to the loss in Baltimore, but after taking a step back and evaluating the Cleveland Browns’ 2018 season as a whole, it would be impossible to label it anything other than a resounding success.

Just one year after being the absolute laughingstock of the league, a team that failed to win a single game, the Browns went 7–8–1. It was their best overall record since 2007 and the first time they finished outside of last place in the AFC North since 2010.

However, that third-place division finish doesn’t tell the whole story of just how close to really making waves the Browns actually were. If they had only beaten the Steelers instead of tying in Week 1 and closed out that final drive against the Ravens in Week 17, the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens would have all finished at 9–7. With a 5–1 division record, Cleveland would have won the tiebreaker, made the playoffs, and hosted a game on Wild Card Weekend. They were that close.