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Playoff Watch 3.0 – Where do the Browns stand?

Cleveland continues to win and at this point can only control their own schedule

After taking their third win in a row, the Cleveland Browns now have a record of 5-6-0. While it is great that the club is winning games, the franchise is dependent on other NFL teams losing games each weekend.

This past weekend, the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers all won. On the flipside, Wild Card contenders that lost included the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts.

Can the Browns run the table and finish 10-6-0? Would 9-7-0 be enough to get into the post-season? Are division foe the Baltimore Ravens one of the AFC favorites to defeat the New England Patriots and go to the Super Bowl?

Upcoming, a reunion with the Steelers in hostile Pittsburgh. The lead story of this game will be their last game which resulted in the discipline of 33 players on both squads with fines totaling $732,422. The Browns won that contest 21-7 and exposed a weak Pittsburgh offense.

Make no mistake, the Browns are going to need to continue to win, but will need a lot of help in certain games each and every week.

Let’s examine what the other teams are doing, who has the greatest probabilities of making the post-season, and which other games you should take an interest in.

AFC North Division

Baltimore Ravens 9-2-0

Let’s face it, the Ravens are just that good. They have beaten some very good NFL squads recently and are not slowing down one bit. They are pretty much a lock to win the division. Their offensive line is dominate with a superb running game. And quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of the main dudes mentioned for MVP this year. And he should be. He is a weapon in their ground attack.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns play a home game against the Ravens on December 22 and won’t be a divisional game insomuch as it could mean Wild Card implications for Cleveland. Hopefully whatever Kool-Aid the Browns were drinking when they demolished the Ravens 40-25 back in late September their equipment manager can find that can and make some more.

Three weeks in a row the Ravens’ offense has scored 40 or more points. They lead with a 3-1-0 division record. The bad news is that their single division loss was at home to the Browns. The rematch should be epic.

The Ravens are one of the hottest teams in the league with a seven-game winning streak. On their schedule next are the San Francisco 49ers (10-1-0) and Buffalo Bills (8-3-0), then one easy game against the New York Jets (4-7-0), followed by the Browns before closing out against the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-0). Post-season probability: 97% (up 7%).

Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5-0

The Steelers came from behind to beat the worst team in the NFL by six points. An ugly win over a hapless Cincinnati Bengals club is still a win, and Pittsburgh took the victory and now have their sights on the Browns Sunday in what will be the featured game on CBS.

Pittsburgh’s offense is horrible. They have numerous starters still injured and have an ongoing quarterback issue. Their third string signalcaller, Devlin Hodges, came in for the benched Mason Rudolph and tossed the game winning touchdown. You can call it game winning, or maybe you can say the defensive back at no point even attempted to tackle the receiver whatsoever. Didn’t try, didn’t care, didn’t want to get his pants dirty. That one play ended up the difference in the game.

With Cleveland’s win, now the Browns are just one game behind the Steelers in the division and four behind the Ravens with five games remaining.

Looking ahead at their schedule, the Steelers play the Helmetgate rematch with the Browns in Cleveland, Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1), Buffalo Bills (8-3-0), improved New York Jets (4-7-0) and finish out against the Ravens. Pittsburgh is 2-2 in the division.

Wild Cards

There are numerous clubs who have a good chance of getting into the post-season through either of the two Wild Card berths - all currently with better records than the Browns.

WC1: Buffalo Bills 8-3-0

Sunday: defeated the Denver Broncos 20-3. Post-season probability: 82% (up 10%). Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Dallas Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

WC2: Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5-0

Sunday: barely defeated the worst team in the league the Cincinnati Bengals 16-10. Currently, the Steelers own the second playoff slot. Post-season probability: 38% (up 4%). Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Browns, Bills, Ravens.

7. Oakland Raiders 6-5-0

Sunday: lost to the New York Jets 34-3. Post-season probability: 35% (down 25%). Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars.

8. Indianapolis Colts 6-5

Thursday: lost to the Houston Texans 20-17. The Colts are one game out of first-place in the AFC South. Post-season probability: 27% (down 19%). Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Titans, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Jaguars.

9. Tennessee Titans 6-5-0

Sunday: defeated the Jaguars 42-20. The Titans are now one game out of first-place in the AFC South. Post-season probability: 20% (up 5%). Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Colts, Houston Texans (twice), Saints.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
Joe Schobert showing everyone if you want to take down a runner you have to take out his legs
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

10. Cleveland Browns 5-6-0

Sunday: thumped the Miami Dolphins 41-24. Post-season probability: 27% (up 6%). Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers, Ravens.

11, Jacksonville Jaguars 4-7-0

Sunday: lost to the Titans 42-20. Post-season probability: 1% (down 4%). Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Colts, Raiders, LA Chargers.

12. Los Angeles Chargers 4-7-0

Sunday: lost to the Chiefs 24-17. Post-season probability: 1% (even). Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Raiders, Chiefs.

Who to root for in Week 13?

Dallas over Buffalo

Indianapolis over Tennessee (Colts won first match 19-17)

Cleveland over Pittsburgh

Tampa Bay over Jacksonville

San Francisco over Baltimore

Denver over LA Chargers

Kansas City over Oakland (distances Chiefs’ lead in division)

Houston over New England (distances Texans’ lead in division)