With both the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 0-8, I’ve been doing a little research into winless streaks to start NFL seasons in the NFL, as it seems like both teams at this point are possibly bad enough that they could end up challenging the 2008 Detroit Lions to become the next team to go winless in a 16 game season.
So far in my research, it appears that the last time we had two teams start the season 0-8 was in 2013, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars both started with the dubious mark.
In that season, both teams managed to pull out their first win in Week 10, with Jacksonville winning first on Sunday (coming off a Week 9 bye) over the Tennessee Titans, and the Bucs pulling out a Monday night victory over the Miami Dolphins, in what I’m sure was yet another ratings boon for ESPN.
This season, Cleveland is heading into a Week 9 bye after falling to the Minnesota Vikings in London in week 8. The Browns have already lost their best player for the season, in tackle Joe Thomas, and have already started two different quarterbacks (and played three) who have combined for a 7 TD to 17 INT ratio.
The 49ers head into week 9 with two things going for them–first, as of last night, they acquired New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, in a deal they hope works out better than their last trade for a Patriots quarterback. While there’s no word yet on whether or not Garoppolo will play in Week 9 (seems a stretch), the 49ers will also be facing an Arizona Cardinals team that is without starting RB David Johnson and QB Carson Palmer. In my eyes, this makes the Week 9 matchup for the 49ers extremely winnable–and I’ve gone so far as to pick them in our weekly picks (albeit with the last selection in our alternating format).
The 49ers nearly beat the Cardinals with Carson Palmer in week 4, losing 18-15 in the first of two consecutive overtime games, and the 3rd in a stretch of five games they lost by a field goal or less. Unfortunately, their last two losses have been blowouts, losing a combined 73-20, making the decision to start CJ Beathard over Brian Hoyer a significant question, and making the need to make a move for Garoppolo even more obvious.
And if the 49ers don’t win in Week 9, there’s still a shot they could taste victory before the Browns, as the Browns come back from the bye with a trip to Detroit to play the Lions, while the 49ers host the New York Giants, who have nearly matched the ineptitude of the two teams in question.
After that, the 49ers face their bye week, while the Browns host the suddenly formidable Jacksonville Jaguars. If both teams are winless at that point, the Browns have the best chance in week 12, traveling to Cincinnati, while the 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks.
Over the course of the rest of the year, by my estimation there appears to be 4 winnable games for Cleveland on the schedule (@ Cincinnati, @ LA Chargers, vs. Green Bay, and @ Chicago)–although the Browns could just as easily lose all four. After their game against the Giants, I only see one more game that looks very winnable for the 49ers, their home game against Chicago–although who knows what Garoppolo could do for the team.
My final prediction? Both teams end up 2-12, vying for the first pick in the draft–which both teams would be looking to trade.