Playoff Watch 4.0: Browns remain in the hunt despite loss

Cleveland will definitely finish the season with a winning record. That we know. The question that remains for the rest of the year is whether the Browns will make the playoffs.

The answer is in the final four games of the year.

What a difference one week makes. Cleveland owned the highest-ranking Wild Card position with the Number 5 slot and was two games out of first place in the division.

Other games will affect the Browns down the stretch. This week, the Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots lost. These are clubs who are in the Wild Card hunt just like Cleveland. On the flip side, the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans won. The good news will all this is that the Browns own the first tie-breaker against both of these teams.

At look at the remaining games for the Browns are the New York Football Giants, New York Jets and Steelers. The Giants are a roller coaster, the Jets should be a “W”, while Pittsburgh is simply a very good football team. When the Browns play their final game of the season against them, the Steelers will in all likelihood be trying to secure the elusive Number 1 seed in the playoffs. There will no letting up in that game.

Currently, Cleveland owns the tie-breakers against the Colts, Titans, and Dolphins and are on the short end of the stick against the Raiders, Ravens and Steelers.

This season, along with four division winners in the AFC, there will also be awarded an extra Wild Card spot for a total of three. The Browns will end this season with a winning record, so yeah! about that. But, will they make the playoffs?

Let’s look at which teams have the foremost chances of making the post-season.

AFC North Division

#2 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-2-0

After going 11-0-0, the Steelers have lost two in a row. Currently, they are only 2 games ahead of the Browns for the division lead. Last week they held the coveted Number 1 seed in the playoffs, but now are ranked second behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

Pittsburgh did clinch a playoff berth this week despite losing to the Buffalo Bills. However, the stranglehold they held on the AFC has loosened quite a bit. The Steelers lead the league in passes dropped while their defensive secondary is very weak despite a good pass rush.

The Cleveland-Pittsburgh game in Week 17 will mean everything to both of these clubs. The Cincinnati Bengals are the Steelers’ only easy game and will face the Indianapolis Colts in their second-to-last game.

As far as the playoffs, the Steelers currently are 8-1 in the conference which is the second tie-breaker so they are in good shape there. Plus, they are 4-0 in the division. It would take quite a bit for the Browns to catch them for the division, but at this juncture, they are within striking distance; whereas Baltimore would have to win out to claim the title while at the same time Pittsburgh would have to lose the remainder of their games which appears unlikely.

Sunday: lost to the Bills 26-15. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Colts, Browns

Post-season probability: 100%

NOTE: Clinched playoff berth

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns 9-4-0

Going into the game with the Ravens, the Browns were the Number 5 seed and the first Wild Card spot. They would remain without change regardless of a win or a loss to Baltimore. But with a win, they would have been just one game behind the division leading Steelers. The Ravens were hurting for victories and the ability to get right back into the playoff picture.

The loss to the Ravens was huge in that Baltimore has the tie-breaker in the likelihood that the two clubs end up tied for one of the Wild Card spots. The loss also shortens the distance between the Browns and Ravens to just one game.

The Brown are already guaranteed a winning record, now let’s see if they can finish. The rub on Cleveland was that they were only NFL garbage team beaters and could not stay with the big boys. But with victories over the Colts, Titans and almost beating the Ravens, that perception has changed. This is not the same club that was blasted 38-6 in their opening game.

Currently, winning the division should be the furthermost thing on their minds. Staying in the Wild Card hunt should be their focus.

Is this the “same ole Browns”? Or will they take care of business and get into the post-season?

Baltimore Ravens 8-5-0

The Monday Night game against the Browns meant quite a bit for both clubs. The Ravens needed another wind to get back into the playoff picture – which they have now achieved. A look at their final games is promising: Jaguars, Giants and Bengals. It’s possible that could sweep and finish 11-5-0. And at the same time pass Cleveland for the top Wild Card spot.

The win advances Baltimore from the Number 10 seed to the eighth and climbing. A look at their 8-5-0 record reveals their losses came from the Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots, Titans and the Steelers again. All of these are playoff contenders or division leaders.

AFC East

#3 seed: Buffalo Bills 10-3-0

Sunday: beat the Steelers 26-15. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 99%

Miami Dolphins 8-5-0

Sunday: lost to the Chiefs 33-27. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 25%

AFC South

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans

Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

#4 seed: Tennessee Titans 9-4-0

Sunday: beat the Jaguars 31-10. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Packers

Post-season probability: 94%

Indianapolis Colts 9-4-0

Sunday: beat the Raiders 44-27. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers

Post-season probability: 90%

AFC West

#1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs 12-1-0

Sunday: beat the Dolphins 33-27. Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Saints

Post-season probability: 100%

NOTES: Clinched division title, currently own Number 1 seed

Wild Cards

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

#5. Cleveland Browns 9-4-0

Monday: lost to Ravens 47-42. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Giants, Steelers

Post-season probability: 87%

#6. Indianapolis Colts 9-4-0

Sunday: beat the Raiders 44-27. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers

Post-season probability: 90%

#7. Miami Dolphins 8-5-0

Sunday: lost to the Chiefs 33-27. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 25%

On the Outside

#8. Baltimore Ravens 8-5-0

Monday: beat the Browns 47-42. Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Giants

Post-season probability: 88%

#9. Las Vegas Raiders 7-6-0

Sunday: lost to the Colts 44-27. Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins

Post-season probability: 15%

#10. New England Patriots 6-7-0

Thursday: lost to the Rams 24-3. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins, Bills

Post-season probability: 2%

Looking Ahead: results that could help the Browns

Thursday

Chargers over Raiders

Sunday

Lions over Titans

Texans over Colts

Patriots over Dolphins

Jaguars over Ravens

Monday

Bengals over Steelers

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