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Cleveland Browns' Playoff Picture: Week 13 Edition

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As the Cleveland Browns head into Week 13, it's time to look at what they need to have happen this week to improve their odds of making the postseason, either as the winners of the AFC North or as a wildcard team. As of Sunday morning, November 30, here is how the playoff picture looks in the AFC:

Week 13 Playoffs

(Note: all of the discussions below assume that the Browns defeat the Bills this Sunday)

AFC North Odds for the Browns: Last week, it wasn't mathematically possible for the Browns to hold the division lead under any scenario with a win over the Falcons. This week, they could jump back into first place (and as high as the third seed), but only if the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals all lose or tie. The odds of that happening aren't great, but we'll get to their opponents this week a little later. This is an incremental process: the hope is that Cleveland could leap ahead of one or two teams next week, and then take the division lead by the end of the season.

AFC Wildcard Odds for the Browns: There are way too many scenarios to discuss this week, but here is the bottom line: if two of the three teams in our division win, it actually helps our wildcard chances slightly. The Browns could be be the 5th or 6th seed, but are more likely to hold the 6th seed due to other wildcard teams still holding the tiebreaker when it comes to conference record. The Browns' conference record is 4-4, but could improve to 5-4 with a win over the Bills. If the Chargers and Chiefs lose, we'd suddenly have the same conference record as them.

Week 13 Games to Watch In Relation to the Browns' Playoff Hopes

  • Redskins vs. Colts: Could Colt McCoy do his former team a favor? If everything goes Cleveland's way this week, the Browns could be the No. 3 seed, ahead of the Colts. It would also put the Colts one game behind the Browns in the win column, so if Indianapolis beats Cleveland next week, it'd offer a little room for error in wins/losses to still be able to jump ahead of them any given week in the future. We want the Redskins to win.
  • Titans vs. Texans: The Texans don't seem like much of a threat as they are currently two games behind the Browns, but the farther we can keep them away (they own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Cleveland), the better. We want the Titans to win.

  • Chargers vs. Ravens: This one depends on what you think is more likely: Cleveland winning the division, or Cleveland winning the wildcard. If the Ravens lose, Cleveland jumps ahead of them in the win/loss column. If the Chargers lose, Cleveland jumps ahead of them in the win/loss column and would now also have the same conference record. Long-term, the Chargers' schedule is brutal: they face the Patriots, Broncos, 49ers, and Chiefs to close out the season. I'd like for the Ravens to lose this week, and then the Chargers to struggle in those final games. We want the Chargers to win.
  • Bengals vs. Buccaneers: Because of that "tie" that the Bengals have, Cleveland never has to worry about any other tiebreaker at the end of the season against them except for how many wins each team has. Therefore, this one is easy: We want the Buccaneers to win.

  • Saints vs. Steelers: I am still holding out hope that the Saints can flip a switch offensively (or should I say defensively...sheesh), but after losing three straight home games, I'm not too optimistic about that. Because the Browns beat the Saints earlier this year, if the Steelers lose to them, it also helps Cleveland out in the common games tiebreaker against Pittsburgh. We want the Saints to win.

  • Patriots vs. Packers: I still have no sane thoughts about the Browns catching the Patriots. If the Browns win and the Patriots lose, though, Cleveland would technically be one game behind the first seed in the AFC (without any tiebreakers). Since the Dolphins are so far behind New England, why not: We want the Packers to win.

  • Broncos vs. Chiefs: I've said this for several weeks about the Broncos: they are the team that we are trying to use as a chip in our favor to take out some wildcard teams. This week, we need them to put the Chiefs behind the Browns record-wise. In later weeks, the Broncos can do more work for Cleveland against the Chargers and Bengals. Let's not press our luck: We want the Broncos to win.

  • Dolphins vs. Jets: Miami is one game behind the Browns. Let them stay there, even if I have no faith in the Jets. We want the Jets to win.

The scenarios above are conveyed below (view or manipulate the scenario here). Test your own playoff scenarios from scratch using the ESPN NFL Playoff Machine.

Week 13 Playoffs