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Playoff Watch 3.0: A signature win coupled with a Steelers’ loss

Franchise will definitely have a winning record this year

Cleveland’s win over the Tennessee Titans Sunday was epic. Every single Browns’ fan will never forget the feeling at halftime during that game after the club built a 38-7 lead at the half against the AFC South division leaders. Every single thing the Browns touched in the first half turned to gold. Every penalty, turnover, third down attempt, fourth down stop went their way. Well, just about everything.

The victory kept the Browns as the fifth seed and the Number 1 Wild Card. That is great news. They control their own destiny and, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost their first game of the year. Currently, Cleveland is just two games out of first place in the AFC North with four games remaining.


But look at the remaining games: Baltimore Ravens, New York Football Giants, New York Jets and Steelers. There could be three loses there. There could also be three wins to add to the tally. Before the Titans game, it was perceived that Cleveland could only defeat the very bad clubs of the NFL. Now, they have beaten two clubs who are considered the second level of good: Tennessee and the Indianapolis Colts.

Even better news is that the Browns now own tie-breakers against these two plus they still have the conference tie-breaker against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. They are on the short end on tie-breakers against the Raiders and Ravens, although Cleveland plays Baltimore this upcoming Monday night and could improve their playoff scenarios with their fifth straight victory.

However, not a bit of this will become a subject if they don’t beat upper echelon teams in the league. Four games remain. They have the chance to end strong. If they can’t finish, this year’s squad doesn’t deserve to advance.

The Cleveland Browns are currently 9-3-0. Wild Card contenders who won this week were Las Vegas, New England, Miami, Baltimore and Indianapolis while division leaders Kansas City and Buffalo also clinched victories. Clubs with losses include the Steelers, Houston and Denver.

The main thing that has changed since last week was the Browns would have faced the #4 seed Buffalo Bills if the season were to end today, but now Cleveland would take on the new Number 4 seed Tennessee on the road. The Bills have jumped to the third seed.

What is important is that the Cleveland Browns are relevant again. The sports talkies are engaging about Cleveland’s success. They have all become believers. And for many, you can see it in their faces they genuinely want the Browns to finally win something.

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Some interesting tidbits: the Browns are 5-1 since OBJ was hurt on that interception - which was the last INT Baker Mayfield threw. Since that time, Mayfield has tossed 11 touchdowns.

This season, along with four division winners in the AFC, there will also be awarded an extra Wild Card spot for a total of three. The Browns will end this season with a winning record, so yeah! about that. But, will they make the playoffs?

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

AFC North Division

#1 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-1-0

Don’t look now, but Cleveland is just two games out of first place in the division. It’s true. The Steelers currently own the tie-breaker with their 38-7 loss back in mid-October but the Browns are not the same team. A look at Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule features difficult games against the Bills, Colts and Browns; and on paper an easy contest in the division with the Cincinnati Bengals whom Pittsburgh clobbered 36-10 four games ago.

It would take quite a bit for the Browns to catch Pittsburgh for the division, but at this juncture, they are within striking distance and weirder things have happened before.

Pittsburgh is 4-0 in the division and 8-0 in conference play which obviously is a huge advantage. More than likely they will fight the Kansas City Chiefs for that elusive Number 1 seed. There are several games among their final opponents that they could lose. The big showdown is this week against AFC East leading Buffalo and the face both the Colts and Browns, both with good records. The Bengals are their only easy game.

Monday: lost to the Football Team 23-17. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Bills, Colts, Browns

Post-season probability: 99%

Cleveland Browns 9-3-0

The current four game win streak has the Browns right in the thick of getting into the post-season. They are already guaranteed a winning record, now let’s see if they can finish and beat some of these very good clubs like the Ravens and Steelers. Sunday’s win over Tennessee proved that they can win against the stiffer competition just like beating the Colts earlier this year.

Can they win the division? Right this minute, they have the ability to. Of course, they will need lots of help – help meaning other teams beating Pittsburgh. They are just two games out. It is incredible to conceive they have the opportunity within their grasps.

If both Pittsburgh and the Browns complete the season at 13-3-0 overall and split games against each other, plus own identical 9-3 conference records, then intra-conference games, the other tie-breakers would be needed that are very convoluted at this juncture but will slowly clear up each week.

A lot of sports talk shows have been focused on the Browns recently, and justifiably so. If anyone within the organization was paying any attention to the banter of their franchise being overrated or a team that only feeds on the weaker clubs, apparently nobody was believing any of it.

Is this the “same ole Browns”? Or is this a new cultured Cleveland team? Stay tuned.

Baltimore Ravens 7-5-0

The Monday Night game against the lowly Dallas Cowboys meant quite a bit for both clubs. The Cowboys are trying to save face although it is still possible they can capture the NFC Least. The Ravens, however, want to stop this killing field of a three-game losing streak and get back into the playoff hunt. They began leading the division, then solidly in second place, and now are shuffling to even get a whiff at a playoff nod.

Their win-loss record in conference play might be their downfall. Currently, it stands at 4-5. Head-to-head is the first tie-breaker, and then conference records so they are in trouble. They are 0-2 against the Steelers, so a division crown is out. But one of the Wild Cards is still within reach.

A look at their final games is promising: Browns, Jaguars, Giants and Bengals. It’s possible that could sweep and finish 11-5-0. At least the Browns and Giants are challenging.

AFC East

#3 seed: Buffalo Bills 9-3-0

Monday: beat the 49ers 34-24. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers, Patriots, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 91%

Miami Dolphins v Cleveland Browns

Miami Dolphins 8-4-0

Sunday: beat the Bengals 19-7. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 46%

AFC South

#4 seed: Tennessee Titans 8-4-0

Sunday: lost to the Browns 41-35. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Packers

Post-season probability: 89%

Indianapolis Colts 8-4-0

Sunday: beat the Texans 26-20. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Steelers

Post-season probability: 64%

AFC West

#2 seed: Kansas City Chiefs 11-1-0

Sunday: beat the Broncos 22-16. Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins, Saints

Post-season probability: 100%

NOTE: Clinched playoff berth

Wild Cards

#5. Cleveland Browns 9-3-0

Sunday: beat the Titans 41-35. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Ravens, Giants, Steelers

Post-season probability: 94%

NFL: JAN 02 Patriots Press Conference Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#6. Miami Dolphins 8-4-0

Sunday: beat the Bengals 19-7. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders, Bills

Post-season probability: 46%

#7. Indianapolis Colts 8-4-0

Sunday: beat the Texans 26-20. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Steelers

Post-season probability: 64%

On the Outside

#8. Las Vegas Raiders 7-5-0

Sunday: beat the Jets 31-28. Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Colts, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 62%

#9. Baltimore Ravens 7-5-0

Monday: beat the Cowboys 34-17. Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Browns, Giants

Post-season probability: 41%

#10. New England Patriots 6-6-0

Sunday: beat the Chargers 45-0. Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Rams, Dolphins, Bills

Post-season probability: 10%

Looking Ahead: results that could help the Browns


Rams over Patriots


Chiefs over Dolphins

Jaguars over Titans

Colts over Raiders

Bills over Steelers