Here at DBN, we know better than to say the Browns will make the playoffs this year. We aren’t saying that. We know “that” brings a jinx right behind it and frankly, we don’t want to become the catalyst to start an avalanche of negative publicity and thus the blame.
What we will say instead, is that the Browns have an average chance of making the playoffs this year. There is a probability. They just may ease into the post-season. It’s very possible and then maybe not. Wouldn’t it be great if Cleveland got in. Maybe the “Wasteland Years” drought is about to be over. Things are looking good for an extended season.
That should cover it.
Everybody remembers the 2014 season under head coach Mike Pettine. It was OG Joel Bitonio’s rookie season. After starting 1-2-0, the Browns won six of their next eight games and were suddenly relevant at 7-4-0. In the division, they had already split with the Pittsburgh Steelers and were 1-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals with a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. At that point, the Browns were atop the AFC North Division with the Bengals in second place. All four clubs had winning records.
Then just as suddenly as the ascension, the bottom fell out. Cleveland lost their last five games including 30-0 to Cincinnati and 20-10 in the finale against Baltimore. The end result became a dishearting 7-9-0 record as the Steelers took the division at 11-5-0. The two Wild Cards? The Bengals (10-5-1) and Ravens (10-6-0).
And here we are in 2020 with a 6-3-0 record.
On the remainder of their schedule, the Browns have four bad teams and three good teams remaining. If they defeat the teams they should beat, 10-6-0 is evident. If a hiccup occurs among the lower-tier teams, then that would place them squarely at 9-7-0.
Will 10-6-0 or 9-7-0 get the Browns into the playoffs?
Let’s just say that Cleveland beats the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Football Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets left on their schedule – all the bad teams remaining on the schedule. And then, since the Browns have issues competing against the NFL elite and second-tier clubs, they lose to the Tennessee Titans, Steelers and Ravens.
That is a 10-6-0 record – which is an awesome sight to any Browns’ fan. Finally, a winning record.
However, will that be enough? Can the Browns make the playoffs with 10 wins? Let’s examine the competition.
What appeared to be a Buffalo Bills (7-3-0) division crown now will come down to themselves, the Miami Dolphins (6-3-0) and don’t count out the New England Patriots (4-5-0). The Dolphins have won five straight but have four difficult games remaining. Buffalo has only three tough games while the Patriots face four games against stern competition.
The Steelers (9-0-0) and Ravens (6-3-0) should go down to the wire with this one. Whichever club wins the division, the other will settle into a Wild Card spot.
At first, the Titans (6-3-0) appeared to be on cruise control to capture this division until they lost last weekend to the Indianapolis Colts, also 6-3-0. The Browns game against Tennessee will be crucial for a possible Wild Card slot. Already, Cleveland owns the tie-breaker against the Colts and would be nice to own it against the Titans as well. The best scenario for Cleveland is for Tennessee to win the division and place the Colts into the Wild Card race.
Both the Kansas City Chiefs (8-1-0) and Las Vegas Raiders (6-3-0) have high probabilities to make the post-season. The Raiders own the tie-breaker over the Browns which may prove to be fateful.
For argument sake, let’s say the Bills, Steelers, Colts and Chiefs take their respective division crowns. That leaves six teams to fight for three spots. And if the Browns lose to the Titans, Ravens and Steelers in upcoming games as expected, the only tie-breaker Cleveland will occupy is against Indianapolis among those other five clubs.
There are plenty of games to play, and this is a very early look with lots of surprises and twists left in the season. There are seven playoff spots in each conference. Four will be division crowns – which the Browns will have zero chance at.
This leaves the three Wild Cards. If Baltimore is a given, the field now narrows down to two slots.
And those two slots should come down to Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, New England......and the Browns. With the odds posted, Cleveland is currently the eighth team.
For many, if Cleveland finishes 9-7-0 this year under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, a sense of satisfaction will arise. Hasn’t it felt good to have your Browns a winner for a change? And nine wins in Stefanski’s first year at the helm is a pretty good indicator of where this franchise is headed. GM Andrew Berry will certainly isolate the problem areas on both sides of the ball and bring in some quality help from both the college draft and free agency.
However, wouldn’t it be just crazy cool if indeed the Browns made the playoffs?