Cleveland Browns: Are They Closing the Gap in the AFC North?

Rich CastoContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2012

Peyton Hillis bulldozes through 4 Steelers players.
Peyton Hillis bulldozes through 4 Steelers players.Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers are playing in the NFC Championship game after beating the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, respectively.

The Denver Broncos defeated last year's Super Bowl runner-up Pittsburgh Steelers in their wild-card matchup before eventually losing to the New England Patriots.

Not many gave these teams much of a chance at making any noise in the playoffs.

And now, the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants are one win away from the Super Bowl.

The NFL is a league full of parity, right?

So when I say the Cleveland Browns are closer than you think, you think...what?

Before you call me crazy, look at some of these statistics from last year.

The Browns Defensively:

Total Yards (10th)

Pass Defense (2nd)

Scoring Defense (5th)

Rushing Defense (30th)


BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 24:  Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns reacts on the field during the closing moments of the Browns 2014 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty I
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Looking at the numbers, our defense looks to be much improved. It doesn't help that they are on the field the majority of the time either.

Rushing defense is still an issue, but when your defense is constantly on the field, late in a game that they're losing, what is the opponent usually doing? Eating up time by running the ball. Not the only reason, but regardless, they need to improve here.


Total Touchdowns

1. Green Bay (70)

2. New Orleans (66)

3. New England (61)

Shocking I know. But what if I told you the Indianapolis Colts scored more touchdowns (25) than the Cleveland Browns? The same Colts that will be selecting first overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

30. Cleveland (21)

31. Kansas City (20)

32. St. Louis (18)


Browns fans still love Phil Dawson, the longest tenured Brown since their return.
Browns fans still love Phil Dawson, the longest tenured Brown since their return.Jason Miller/Getty Images


And lastly, this fun fact.

Did you know that the Cleveland Browns lost six games by seven points or less in 2011? Remember how many games in which Phil Dawson had to come out in the red zone to score Cleveland's first points? And you probably screamed, "Why can't they just score a touchdown!?"

I know I did.

Four more touchdowns could hypothetically equal four more wins, which equals the same 8-8 record that the Denver Broncos had this season. An 8-8 playoff berth wouldn't happen in the AFC North, but fans across Ohio would be holding a parade for the .500 Cleveland Browns. Pat Shurmur would be revered as the best coach addition since 1999, and Holmgren would be the savior!

You know it's true. Because Browns fans want it that bad!

Tom Heckert is doing his job. He's putting the players in place.

With another great draft, hitting on pick No. 4, No. 22, and No. 37, the Browns could feasibly put together a very competitive season in 2012. They need offensive help. They need to find a way to score touchdowns!

Once they do that, you'll agree.

The Cleveland Browns are closer than people think.

The time is has to be.