Every year, no matter how ridiculous the post(s) may be, I take a look at the chances the Cleveland Browns have at making the postseason before they are mathematically eliminated from contention (here is last year's post). Heading into Week 12, the Browns have a 4-6 record. At this time last season, the Browns were 3-7 but eventually improved to 5-7 before finishing the year at 5-11.
Without considering how good or bad the Browns will play over the next six weeks, by virtue of five of those games being against divisional opponents, you can almost say that Cleveland "controls its own destiny" at this point.
- First off, the Browns need to go 6-0 over the next six games. That shouldn't be a problem, right?
- The Bengals and the Steelers are 1-2 in the division and the Ravens are 3-0 in the division. If the Browns win out, they will finish at 5-1 in the division, and everyone else in the AFC North will have at least two losses in that category. At the very least, if things came down to the division tiebreaker, the Browns control their own fate in that regard.
- Baltimore and Pittsburgh are currently three games ahead of the Browns. Even if Cleveland swept both of them, the Browns would still need them to lose one more game this season. If they each lost two more games, that would give the Browns the freedom to lose to the Arizona Cardinals, finishing 5-1 the rest of the way instead of 6-0. In either scenario, we also need to hope the Bengals lose to someone besides Cleveland.
- Pittsburgh's Schedule: Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cleveland
- Baltimore's Schedule: San Francisco, Cleveland, Indianapolis, San Diego, Cleveland, Cincinnati
- Cincinnati's Schedule: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, St. Louis, Arizona, Baltimore
- Can Cleveland get a wildcard spot if they don't win the division? Actually, it's not far out of the question. Let's assume the Browns split the series with Pittsburgh and Baltimore, finishing the season with an 8-8 record. Baltimore would basically be assured one wildcard spot, which they currently hold. The Bengals currently hold the other wildcard spot, but they would only be one game ahead of the Browns if Cleveland wins this week. Behind the Bengals, there are four teams with a 5-5 record right now: the Jets, Bills, Titans, and Broncos. The Bills are struggling, the Broncos might fall off at some point with Tebow. They'd lose a tiebreaker to the Titans.
So, am I saying there's a chance? Sure, why not! If you really believe there is a chance, here are the results that need to play in our favor this week (the teams we want to win are underlined):
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati: The Browns have to win, obviously. This game is more important in my book than sweeping either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. We can't go 0-2 against any one division team.
San Francisco vs. Baltimore: How much longer can we expect the 49ers to keep winning and winning? One of these weeks, they are bound to be upset. The Ravens have struggled offensively too often this year though, and the 49ers seem to be as consistent as it gets when it comes to being efficient without being explosive. Hopefully the 49ers keep on rolling.
Tampa Bay vs. Tennessee: It's not critical that the Titans lose this week, but the sooner they start losing, the better (for wildcard purposes).
Buffalo vs. New York Jets: I think the Bills are more likely to collapse by the end of the season, while the Jets are more likely to pull things together and be a tough team to contend with. Because of that, the bigger the hole that the Jets dig for themselves right now, the better (for wildcard purposes).
Denver vs. San Diego: This is another game where it really doesn't matter if Denver loses this week specifically. Similar to the game above, I'd probably be more worried about San Diego getting hot and getting back into the face, so it's better for Denver to just bury them now.
- Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh: I'm sorry, I can't even get my hopes up for this one. The Chiefs aren't going to roll into Pittsburgh with Tyler Palko and pull off an upset.