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Playoff Watch 5.0: Browns tightly hold onto that Number 5 seed & have a shot at the division

What will happen next to keep the hope alive for a playoff berth?

Cleveland will definitely finish the season with a winning record, but the looming question is will they make the playoffs?

They have stayed in the Number 5 seed slot for three weeks now, but could end up at Number 6, 7 or even miss the post-season altogether. Or, Cleveland could be crowned the 2020 AFC North Division champs.

The key for Cleveland is to beat Pittsburgh in the final game. If they accomplish this, they are in the playoffs. If they lose and Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore all win out their final two games, the Browns could end up as the eighth slot and miss out.

In the AFC this year, one franchise with a good record will be watching the playoffs from home.

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

This past weekend did not provide much assistance for the Browns. The Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers lost as did New England which eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs; but the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins all won. The Raiders are holding on by a thread.

Let’s look at which teams have the foremost chances of making the post-season.

AFC North Division

#3 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-3-0

The Steelers once owned the Number 1 seed convincingly as they cruised to an 11-0-0 record. That’s why they play the games. Then Pittsburgh lost the top slot to the Kansas City Chiefs and going into the Monday Night game owned the Number 2 seed.

Fast forward and Pittsburgh has lost their last three contests. The loss Monday Night to Cincinnati has dropped them to 11-3-0. Buffalo is the new Number 2 while the Steelers are now seeded Number 3.

They have a tough final two games remaining against the Colts and Browns. A Pittsburgh victory in both or either may be the deciding factor on which three clubs make it to the post-season with the Browns on top of that list.

But hold on. Pittsburgh is just one game in front of Cleveland in the standings and two ahead of Baltimore.

If the Steelers continue their slide and the Browns win out, Cleveland wins the division. Period. If Pittsburgh loses both of their final two games plus the Browns and Ravens win out, the Browns still win the division. If the Steelers lose both games and the Ravens win out, Baltimore would be tied with Pittsburgh but the Steelers own the tie-breaker for the division.

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division title with:

  1. PIT win OR
  2. CLE loss OR
  3. PIT tie + CLE tie

Monday: lost to the Bengals 27-17. Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Colts, Browns

Post-season probability: 100%; Win division probability: 73%

NOTE: Clinched playoff berth

Cleveland Browns v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns 10-4-0

The win against the New York Football Giants elevated Cleveland’s chances of making the playoffs by 1% and kept a stranglehold on the Number 5 seed.

The Browns are already guaranteed a winning record, now let’s see if they can finish.

As far as winning the division, the Steelers’ loss to division foe Bengals now elevate the Browns to one-game back. Staying in the Wild Card hunt was their focus but now have something better in view. If the season were to end today, Cleveland would make the playoffs and travel to Tennessee with a rematch against the Titans.

The task for the Browns is to beat the Steelers in the finale. The biggest threat are the Ravens who currently are on the outside but have a shot at any of the three Wild Card slots plus have the easiest schedule remaining.

Is this the “same ole Browns”? Or will they take care of business and get into the post-season? Right now It is very simple: beat Pittsburgh and secure the Number 5 seed.

Here’s what needs to happen to earn a playoff berth Week 16:

The Browns CLINCH with a WIN over the Jets AND

Miami Dolphins LOSS or TIE to Las Vegas Raiders OR

Baltimore Ravens LOSS or TIE to New York Giants OR

Indianapolis Colts LOSS to Pittsburgh Steelers

Here’s what needs to happen to take the division Weeks 16 & 17:

The Browns CLINCH with a WIN over the Jets AND a win over the Steelers AND

Pittsburgh Steelers LOSS to Indianapolis Colts AND LOSS to Browns

Win division probability: 27%

Baltimore Ravens 9-5-0

After the Ravens ended their three-game skid with losses to the Patriots, Titans and Steelers, this squad has bounced back with a three-game winning streak. Baltimore defeated the Cowboys, Browns and Jaguars in consecutive weeks and now are poised for a playoff run.

The problem for this point on, is that are dependent on the misfortunes of others. Baltimore has the Giants and Bengals left to play and should take care of both to finish 11-5-0. However, they may be the odd man out with a sterling record.

Miami has the toughest final two games against the Raiders and then Buffalo. If they find themselves on the winning side of both contests they too would finish 11-5-0 and would advance via a better conference record – the second tie-breaker behind head-to-head.

Then there are the Colts. Indy has yet to play Pittsburgh followed by Jacksonville. If they win out, the Ravens would leap over the Colts due to their 24-10 victory in Week 8.

The cherry for Baltimore is the fact that the Browns currently own a one-game edge over them in the division. That would disappear if the Steelers defeat Cleveland in the final game as the Browns lost both regular season games to the Ravens. No matter what, Baltimore owns the tie-breaker over the Browns.

It is inevitable that Baltimore will not only make the post-season, but could possibly secure the highest Wild Card seed. They will be very dangerous in the playoffs riding a five-game winning streak. And they will knock out either Cleveland, Indianapolis, Tennessee or Miami in doing so.

They cannot win the division but will need victories in their final two games for a playoff berth and other clubs to lose.

Win division probability: 0%

AFC East

#2 seed: Buffalo Bills 11-3-0

Saturday: beat the Broncos 48-19. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 100%

NOTE: Clinched division title

Miami Dolphins 9-5-0

Sunday: beat the Patriots 22-12. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 31%

AFC South

#4 seed: Tennessee Titans 10-4-0

Sunday: beat the Lions 46-25. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Packers

Post-season probability: 98%

Tennessee clinches AFC South division title with:

  1. TEN win + IND loss​

Tennessee clinches playoff berth with:

  1. TEN win OR
  2. MIA loss OR
  3. BAL loss OR
  4. TEN tie + BAL tie

Indianapolis Colts 10-4-0

Sunday: beat the Texans 27-20. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers

Post-season probability: 92%

Indianapolis clinches playoff berth with:

  1. IND win + BAL loss or tie OR
  2. IND win + MIA loss or tie OR
  3. IND tie + BAL loss OR
  4. IND tie + MIA loss

AFC West

#1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs 13-1-0

Sunday: beat the Saints 32-29. Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: none

Post-season probability: 100%

NOTES: Clinched division title, currently own Number 1 seed

Kansas City clinches the first-round bye with:

  1. KC win or tie OR
  2. PIT loss or tie OR
  3. BUF loss or tie OR
  4. KC clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over PIT or BUF AND clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over the other club

Wild Cards

#5. Cleveland Browns 10-4-0

Sunday: beat the Giants 20-6. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers

Post-season probability: 93%

NFL: OCT 11 Colts at Browns Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#6. Indianapolis Colts 10-4-0

Sunday: beat the Texans 27-20. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers

Post-season probability: 92%

#7. Miami Dolphins 9-5-0

Sunday: beat the Patriots 22-12. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 31%

On the Outside

#8. Baltimore Ravens 9-5-0

Sunday: beat the Jaguars 40-14. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Giants

Post-season probability: 86%

#9. Las Vegas Raiders 7-7-0

Thursday: lost to the Chargers 30-27. Last five games: 1-4. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins

Post-season probability: 1%

Looking Ahead: results that could help the Browns


Raiders over Dolphins


Colts over Steelers

Giants over Ravens

Packers over Titans