UPDATE: With the Chargers beating the 49ers on Saturday night, the Browns are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Typically, this playoff picture posts serve as a piece of optimism for the Cleveland Browns. However, I do not want to get anyone's hopes up this week. The Browns are technically still alive for the playoffs, but they only have a 0.1% chance, according to Prediction Machine. Even that is probably being generous. As of Saturday (prior to the SD vs. SF game), December 20, here is how the playoff picture looks in the AFC:
The Browns are mathematically eliminated from contention of winning the AFC North. The only way they can make the playoffs is as the sixth seed. Here is what needs to happen in order for the Browns to secure the sixth seed:
- The Browns need to finish 2-0 (at Carolina, at Baltimore).
- The Steelers need to beat Kansas City in Week 16. Then, there game in Week 17 does not matter to Cleveland.
- The Ravens need to finish 0-2 (at Houston, vs. Cleveland).
- The Chiefs need to finish 0-1-1 (at Pittsburgh, vs. San Diego). Yes, that's right -- they can't win a game, and on top of that, they must tie the Chargers in their Week 17 game.
- The Chargers need to finish 0-1-1 (at San Francisco, at Kansas City). Just like above, the Chargers have to lose in Week 16 and then tie the Chiefs in Week 17.
- The Bills need to finish 0-2 (at Oakland, at New England).
- The Texans need to finish 1-1 (vs. Baltimore, vs. Jacksonville), but the order matters: they have to beat Baltimore, and then lose to Jacksonville.
- The Dolphins need to finish 1-1 or 0-2 (vs. Minnesota, vs. Jets). This is the only team that has flexibility in terms of it not mattering which specific game they win or lose.
All of that needs to happen for Cleveland to be the No. 6 seed -- no deviations from the above scenario will work. If all of the winning and losing scenarios weren't enough, the biggest backbreaker is the fact that the Chargers and Chiefs would need to tie. Ugh.
In summary, it's informative to be aware of the scenario, but there is literally zero reason to get excited about it. 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. NOTE: The scenario below reflects results needed for both Weeks 16 and 17, not just Week 16.