Analytics Love Browns More Than Others

The analytic site Pro Football Focus likes the Browns far more than any other site. Are the Browns on track?

(The above picture/chart has nothing to do with this article but wanted something that looked data, statistics, analytical and that was the one I found quickly.)

The Cleveland Browns are 0 - 4. 

They are the only team in the NFL not to win a game so far this season.

They got rid of most of their veterans, drafted and signed a lot of rookies and have had to deal with injuries aleady in the young season.

So it makes sense that these are their rankings in some of the national publications:

CBS Sports - #32
ESPN - #32
SI - #31 - #32

SI decided that the 49ers were worse even though they have gotten a victory.

No one should be surprised by those rankings but Pro Football Focus, a very analytics type site, has some that should shock you:

Overall - 23rd
Offense - 
Defense - 21

From 32nd to 23rd is a huge jump. PFF has the Browns ranked higher than the Chargers, Titans, Jaguars, Lions, Colts, Texans, Buccaneers, 49ers and Jets. Of that group, only the Texans have more than 1 win, 3-1 so far.

That tells us a couple things:

PFF Doesn't Value Record As Much As Others

Not surprising but PFF, and analytics in general, don't tend to value team's records as much as they do the who and why of those records. The Texans are not given a ton of credit for their wins over the Bears, Chiefs and Titans even though all 3 of those teams are ranked ahead of Houston in their overall rankings. 

Obviously, the Browns with zero wins ranked higher than a bunch of teams with 1, and one with 3, says a ton as well. The Browns were competitive and "could" have won 3 of their first 4 games. It seems PFF gives credit for that.

PFF Analyzes Plays Not Outcome

I love what PFF does while others hate it. Based on that, your feelings toward their rankings will be greatly impacted.

Overall, PFF looks at each play to grade how individual players and then the team does on that play. A simple example: If a running back gets 2 yards on an all out blitz on short yardage, PFF is likely to give a higher grade than a 12 yard run on 3rd and 20 where the defense is playing prevent.

One of the reasons some do not like PFF is their way of rating. If a defense is terrible, not covering well and gives a QB easy windows to throw the ball, that QBs rating won't be that high even if they throw for 400 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Comparably, if a QB is facing a tough defense, makes plays when it matters but only ends up with 200 yards passing 1 TD and 1 INT, they may rate them higher.

That makes sense to those who value analytics not so much to those who do not.

Analytics Say Browns On Track

When the Cleveland Browns finished up their draft, not only did they have a ton of draft picks but they had a ton of draft picks that PFF loved. It is not surprising, then, that PFF likes where the Browns are at this point compared to the other sites and fans in general.

For many fans, only the record matters. For those fans, they don't care how they win (even if it is with smoke and mirrors) as long as they win. For the Browns, analytics and PFF, the "how" of the game is almost as important as the record. 

PFF's Power Rankings tell us that the Browns are on track, the offense is ahead of the defense and that hope is just around the corner.

The Browns record, and most other Power Rankings, tell us the Browns are terrible and the "same old Browns."

Who you choose to believe is up to you!

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