The only two National Football League teams to lose 16 regular season games in the same season are in action tonight when the league serves up a pair of preseason contests. The Detroit Lions, who host the Buffalo Bills tonight, lost all 16 of their regular season games in 2007. The Browns, who are in Tampa to meet the Buccaneers tonight, were whitewashed in the 2017 season.
Would it surprise you to know that both those teams with historic losing records in the regular season were also 4-0 in the preseason before their all losing campaigns?
What does that tell you about preseason results?
While one might think that it doesn’t matter at all, I suggest something more logical, and that is teams that know they are going to be challenged to win in the regular season are just a little more excited about piling up victories in “meaningless” preseason scrimmages. Consider it simple human nature. While Peyton Manning teams never excelled in the preseason, and won about as often as any team in the regular season, bad squads are more keen on winning anywhere they can.
The Cleveland Browns were not only 0-16 in 2017, but 1-15 the previous season. Their two year mark of 1-31 is probably a record for futility that will never be matched. But, once the Browns turned the corner, last year they won seven regular season games, they are enjoying winning as much as any team in the league. Hence, they are 2-0 this preseason and favored tonight on the road.
Their opponent tonight, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are also looking for building some sort of momentum after suffering losing seasons and last place finishes the past two years. Four years ago, the Buccaneers made Jameis Winston the first pick in the draft, and hopes ran high for the squad when he joined the team.
But now, after four years of conflicts and low production, the Winston experiment is perhaps in its final year of viability in Florida. A first pick in the draft has to develop into a franchise quarterback in his first three seasons if he is considered a success by today’s standards. Winston has not.
The fact that the Buccaneers organization is offering him a fifth year to realize his potential is either a tribute to long range planning, a resistance to the possibility that they made a mistake drafting him, or a benefit to be gained from first-year head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians, who had success in Indianapolis and Arizona before joining the Buccaneers this season, is Winston’s next best chance at realizing success. It is the third head coach during Winston’s time with Tampa Bay, and no one player is more responsible for Lovie Smith or Dirk Koetter to lose their head coaching roles than Winston. Had he blossomed with the promise he showed during his college days at Florida State, Smith or Koetter could still be the head coach of the Bucs.
Instead, Arians is in line to either sink or swim with Winston.
Tonight, the Browns are playing a team just a little more starved for wins than they are, and the home squad is getting points on the spread. If my numbers are right, they won’t need them.
Qoxhi Picks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2) over Cleveland Browns