BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns have four games left to avoid a winless season.
ESPN Analytics puts the Browns' win chances at 40 percent, higher even than the Christmas Eve game in Chicago (33.6 percent). The analytics website numberFire gives the Browns a slightly better chance at 44.4 percent.
The latest line from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Packers as a 3 1/2 point favorite. But for the Browns, a better than 40 percent chance is cause for optimism.
What factors go into the Browns being given this chance?
Rodgers will not play and Brett Hundley will. Hundley has had his moments, guiding the Packers past Tampa Bay in overtime and nearly past Pittsburgh the week before. After losing his first two starts, Hundley has won two of four. But his passer rating is 70.6, he’s averaging 158.6 yards per game and his Total QBR is 41.1 and he’s been sacked 19 times in six starts, including six times by the Ravens and four by the Steelers.
Hundley is prone to turnovers. He has completed 61 percent of his passes, but he’s thrown just five touchdowns in seven starts with eight interceptions. His interception percentage of 3.9 is not far from DeShone Kizer's 4.3. Kizer’s interception percentage is the worst in the league, but he’s reduced it significantly during the second half of the season. Hundley’s is third worst, behind Kizer and Denver’s Trevor Siemian.
The Browns' run defense has been good. The Browns rank sixth in the league in rushing defense, the Packers 14th. Jamaal Williams has carried the ball 21, 21, 18 and 20 times over the past four weeks, but averaged 3.8 yards per carry and he finished over 3.5 ypc in a game only once. If the Browns can defend the run the way they have, they can force the Packers to throw and perhaps get turnovers or sacks. One concern: Hundley is effective with the read-option. He’s averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Containing him will be important.
Josh Gordon has another week to work on timing and routes. Gordon had the very real chance for a big game against San Diego with more accurate passing. At the very least, Gordon's presence should draw a lot of double coverage and open things up for David Njoku and the other receivers. The Packers are 26th in the league in pass defense, so if Kizer is even a little better it should help the offense.
The odds eventually have to go the Browns' way. Good teams make their breaks, which is one reason the Browns have gotten few. But at some point, every team has a game when the bounces go their way. The Browns are overdue for that kind of game.
A loss to the Packers would tie the Browns for the worst 45-game stretch (4-41) in NFL history, according to Elias.
Since 2015, the Browns are 4-40. The Rams had the worst three-year stretch in NFL history when they went 6-42 from 2007-09, which means the Browns have to go 3-1 to avoid tying or setting that record.
The last team to win five or fewer games over a three-season span: The 1959-61 Redskins, who went 5-30-3.