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NFL Playoffs: A Look at the Cleveland Browns' Chances

Matt Sullivan

In what has become a yearly tradition, no matter how ridiculous the odds are, it's time to take a look at the Cleveland Browns' chances at making the postseason heading into Week 13! If there was ever a year where the Browns could stun the world and capture a playoff berth, despite having a 3-8 record at this time, this would be it.

Here is a breakdown of how Cleveland could end up making the playoffs:

  • First off, forget the division: Baltimore already has nine wins, which is one more than Cleveland can reach. Cleveland can only fight for a wildcard spot in the AFC.
  • There is a really convoluted chance that the Browns could make the playoffs at 7-9, but that would take me several pages to explain. Instead, let's assume that the Browns have to win out, which would put their record at 8-8.
  • All of the division winners are pretty much set in the AFC right now. The Patriots, Ravens, and Texans each have a three-game lead in their division, and the Broncos hold a four-game lead in their division. We'll assume that each of those teams are locks, and therefore not eligible for a wildcard spot. The Colts are looking pretty good to secure one of the wildcard spots in the AFC, since they have a 7-4 record. They also own a tiebreaker over the Browns, so to make things easier, we'll say they are the No. 5 seed.
  • Which teams are competing for the No. 6 seed? The Steelers and the Bengals each have six wins. The Dolphins have five wins. Let's look at each of their remaining schedules:

    Cincinnati's Schedule: San Diego, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore
    Pittsburgh's Schedule: Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland
    Miami's Schedule: New England, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, New England
  • Remember, Cleveland needs to finish at 8-8. Heading into this week, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are 6-5, and Miami is 5-6. The Bengals and Steelers each need to go 2-3 (or worse), while the Dolphins need to go 3-2 (or worse) the rest of the way. Right off the bat, we don't have to worry about Miami: they face New England twice and San Francisco, which eliminates them from contention. That leaves our two division rivals.
  • Who knows what is going to happen with Pittsburgh this week in regards to Roethlisberger. Let's say the Ravens win, and then Cleveland wins the finale. Pittsburgh just needs to lose against San Diego or Dallas. The Bengals are hot right now, but if they lose to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they only need to lose in one of their next three games to make this scenario possible.
  • How realistic are Cleveland's chances at going 8-8? Over the next two weeks, the Browns face Oakland and Kansas City, two of the worst teams in the NFL; even the media sites are ranking them below Cleveland in their power rankings. That moves the Browns to 5-8. Riding a three-game winning streak, Cleveland hosts RGIII and the Redskins. While Griffin is a beast, Washington's defense is still lacking big time. The following week, the Browns face Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road. The good news? Manning always has his worst games against Cleveland's defense. With an upset win over Manning, it sets the stage for an epic season finale against the rivaled Steelers again.

  • Bang. Just like that, the Browns are in the playoffs. Sounds simple, right?


You can figure out your own scenario using ESPN's Playoff Machine tool.

As far as this week's games go, here is what we need to happen (underlined teams indicate teams we want to win):

  • New England vs. Miami
  • Cleveland vs. Oakland
  • Cincinnati vs. San Diego
  • Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore