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What would it take for the Browns to make the playoffs?

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Are the Browns really out of this year’s playoffs, or can they still get in?

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The world is full of quotes and catchphrases that endure time. Such was the case of former NFL coach Jim Mora who, while as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, saw his team suffer an embarrassing 40-21 loss in front of a packed home crowd, which dropped the Colts to 4-6 amidst a three-game horrid start and losing streak.

Mora’s tirade is played regularly as a sound bite on sports radio shows and beer commercials, and today, we are using it here as we ask the question: “How does the loss to the lowly Denver Broncos hurt the Browns chances of making the playoffs?”

Since we are not hopeless optimists, nor have we visited a tarot card reader, we conducted an imaginary survey of 150,000 devoted Cleveland Browns fans via texts, tweets, emails, phone calls, snap chats, carrier pigeons and even stood on the back porch and shouted out this question to several of our neighbors. The results came back that 149,999 fans surveyed all answered back with, “Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!”

Which meant - there was that one. So, let’s look at what it would take for the Browns to still make the playoffs this year.

The Browns will run the table and win their remaining games and finish 10-6. We guarantee it!

At DBN, since we are still in our imaginary stage, we know Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath personally, play golf with him and eat lunch with the former Jets star, who regularly picks up the check. And since Namath is the King of Guarantees, we chatted with him a bit and then asked him, “We want to guarantee that the Browns will win their remaining eight games and get into the playoffs.”

Broadway Joe, a Southern gentleman, replied with, “That ain’t happening fellas.”

OK, so there we have it. The Browns definitely won’t finish this 2019 season 10-6. But what about 9-7? Would 8-8 get Cleveland into the postseason?

For that, we had to visit the local tarot card lady, Madame Jusina, who by the way was named Birdie Mae back in high school and apparently saw Jusina in her future. We showed Madame Jusina the Browns schedule and remaining games to see what alignment the stars may see.

To properly gauge where our minds were, at first she inquired as to what our sign was, and when she asked me I replied honestly, “Hot Donuts Now.” Apparently my mind was very hungry.

For the remainder of the season, the Browns schedule is as follows (all records are current heading into this weekend’s games):

For starters, just throw out home field advantage. The Browns played the perfect game against the Ravens in their home stadium who then bested the undefeated New England Patriots. Also note that the Browns will now have running back Kareem Hunt into the fold. The only problem with that is the running back situation for Cleveland’s offense is not the problem, the offensive line is - and that isn’t going to change for the remainder of the year.

We think our cards mean “Pity the Fool who doesn’t think the Browns have the Strength to shoot for the Moon.”

Madame Jusina has predicted that the Browns will defeat the Dolphins, Bengals twice, and the Cardinals. That would bring their record up to an even 6-6. After that, she said the cards were fuzzy and she was going to need another 100 bucks. That leaves the three games against the Ravens and Bills, both 6-2, and those notorious party crashers, the Steelers. To win any of these contests, let’s see how Cleveland matches up on our own since our writers really don’t make that much and bogart free meals off Hall of Famers.

On offense, the Ravens are ranked 20th in passing and first in rushing, the Bills are 26th in passing and 11th in rushing, while the Steelers are ranked 27th in passing and 26th in rushing.

The Browns beat them all in passing (ranked No. 18) and are currently 13th in rushing.

On the defensive side, the Ravens are ranked 26th in passing and second in rushing, the Bills are third in passing and 19th in rushing, while the Steelers are ranked ninth in passing and 16th in rushing.

The Browns defensive rankings show them at No. 6 against the pass and 30th against the run.

In looking at these match ups, if the Ravens run the ball extremely well, the Browns won’t be able to stop them. If the Bills pass, the Browns are stout. Against the Steelers, a good matchup will be the passing of Cleveland against that tough Pittsburgh pass defense.

Are there four wins there? No. What about three victories? Unlikely. Are there two wins there? Maybe. Is there one more victory in that bunch? Probably. But will 7-9 or even 8-8 propel the franchise into the playoffs? For that, more research is needed.

AFC North Division

In all likelihood, the Ravens will win the division. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is a viable candidate for AFC Offensive Player of the Year, and could very well become the league’s MVP.

But look at their remaining games for a second. They play the Bengals and the Jets to up their record to 8-2, but also have the Houston Texans (6-3), Los Angeles Rams (5-3), San Francisco 49ers (8-0), Bills (6-2), Steelers (4-4) plus the Browns. Currently, the Texans and 49ers lead their respective divisions. While winning 10-12 games seem most likely, could the Ravens finish 9-7?

If the Browns could somehow lose only one game among the four against the Bills, Steelers and Ravens, they would finish 9-7 and more than likely would have the tiebreaker edge over the Ravens.

As far as the Steelers remaining schedule, easy wins over the Dolphins, Jets, Bengals and Cardinals would bring them up to 8-4. Their tough opponents are the Rams, Bills and Ravens. A 9-7 finish or perhaps 8-8 is feasible with what is left to play. A 10-win finish is also not out of the question.

A division crown is highly unlikely for the Browns, so on to the next scenario.

Wild Card 1

The key clubs for the best non-division winners are the 5-3 Colts and the 6-2 Bills. Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett injured his knee last Sunday as has been limited in practice this week. Their easy teams are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) and the Miami Dolphins (1-7). With and expected 7-3 record, the Colts also face four divisional games: the unpredictable Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) twice, the Texans and the Tennessee Titans (4-5). They also have to play the New Orleans Saints (7-1) and Carolina Panthers (5-3). This club will end their season anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7.

The Bills, however, are the favorite to win the top Wild Card spot. With wins almost assured against the Dolphins, Jets and Broncos (3-6) to move to a 9-2 record, the Bills top opponents are the Patriots (7-1), Dallas Cowboys (5-3), Ravens and Steelers. The first meeting with the Patriots was only a 16-10 defeat. The Bills could go as high as 11-5 just behind the Patriots for the division.

So the clear winner of the top Wild Card placement should become the Bills. That leaves the Browns only one opportunity remaining.

Wild Card 2

The last remaining playoff spot will likely go to a 9-7 team, but it is possible this slot could go to an 8-8 club. The top candidates are the Colts and Steelers. The Browns would need to beat three of their four remaining tough opponents, have the Colts fall apart, while the Steelers lose to the Browns twice and then lose all four of their daunting games.

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts
Is Kareem Hunt the magic ingredient for a playoff run? Will the Colts falter down the stretch?
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Is it possible? Depends on whether Cleveland can somehow stop the turnovers and stupid penalties, find some pass protection, tackle better, have quarterback Baker Mayfield make better reads, less fourth down attempts instead of taking points, create more effort on stopping the run, use the weapon named Odell Beckham Jr. a lot more, finally settle on an offensive line combination, and then see the two-headed monster of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt light it up.

Odds of AFC teams (involving Browns) making the playoffs

  • Ravens 88%
  • Bills 74%
  • Colts 56%
  • Steelers 41%
  • Browns 6%

The Browns are presently 2-6 Currently, odds makers have them at 6% to make the playoffs. In the past 10 years, only eight 9-7 franchises even made the playoffs. In the history of the NFL playoffs, just 10 clubs went on with a record of 8-8 and a mere two squads have gone into the post-season with 7-9 records.

The 2011 New York Giants went 9-7 and won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots. As pointed out, the Browns should be able to beat the easy teams and go 6-6. After the first 12 games, that same Giants squad was 6-6.

How many fictitious Browns fans surveyed said the Browns could still make the playoffs this year? Just one.

How many 6-6 NFL teams have gone on to make the playoffs? Just one.

How many 9-7 NFL teams have won the Super Bowl? Just one.

Which means - there is that one.