I violated my own rules when ranking the Browns. They play in a strong division, have not proven they can win close games and have a culture of losing. Most teams with those issues would end up in the bottom five overall, but I had the misfortune of seeing this team play several times last season and I came away impressed even though they lost all of those games.
This team doesn't get the credit they deserve defensively, and I am not a huge believer in the Baltimore Ravens heading in 2013, nor do I have much faith in the Pittsburgh Steelers, but until those two top dogs are knocked from their perches consistently, I have to keep ranking them ahead of teams like the Browns.
19. Cleveland Browns (2012 Record: 5-11)
The best 5-11 team last year was easily the Browns. Their defense is perfectly suited for the AFC North and they lost quite a few hard fought games last year that could have gone their way had they any offensive weapons. I still think their quarterback situation is going to be a disaster this year and they may want to bring in Tim Tebow just because.
Even with as ugly as their quarterback play is, the Browns actually improved their defense significantly over last year and added a few more offensive weapons. This team should win more games, but they are finding themselves in a division that already has three playoff caliber teams and a defending Super Bowl champion. It's going to be rough.
Somehow, someway, I think the Browns scrape together enough wins against non-divisional rivals to finish close to a .500 record. The key will be how the players respond to being a good football team, but still the 4th best in their division. It's concerning, because they do not have the same reservations about character as most teams do and low character guys on a losing team is always a recipe for trouble.