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Playoff Watch 2.0: Moving up the ladder

Weekend games went the Browns’ way which has dramatically improved their playoff hopes

The Cleveland Browns are currently 7-6-0. Nothing to brag about.

After this week’s victory over rival and division leading Baltimore Ravens coupled with losses by Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Cincinnati and Buffalo, the Browns jumped from the 11th seed to just outside the playoff bracket into the 8th slot.

Seven teams in the AFC will proceed into the post-season with just four weeks remaining in the 2021 season. Left on Cleveland’s schedule are all good clubs so there won’t be any gimme wins: Raiders, at Packers, at Steelers and the home finale against the Bengals.

Do not for one second think this will be an easy home stretch. But except for the match against Green Bay, the rest of the games are definitely do-able for a victory if they can get some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. And even the mighty Packers lost against two sub-par clubs: the Saints and Vikings.

Will the Browns make the playoffs? Just two weeks ago most pumpkin fans would have said hell no. What will their final record be? Can they hold on? Can Cleveland defeat another one of the good NFL teams and grasp a win they might be projected/expected to lose?

Let’s examine what the other teams are doing, who has lost a step and who has the best chances of making the post-season.


AFC North Division

#4 seed Baltimore Ravens 8-5-0 (down one seed)

Three weeks ago Baltimore had this division all sewn up. Now, they have lost division games to all three clubs and are just one game out of first place. Ouch.

Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Browns has placed the front-runners in a very precarious position to be certain as they have lost two in a row. They dropped from the third seed to fourth.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

QB Lamar Jackson is expected to play next weekend against the mighty 10-3-0 Packers, one of the best teams in the league. There is no telling what type of shape he will be in, however. If their coaching staff is forcing him to play, that tells you that they believe the franchise cannot win without him. And that may be true.

Every game remaining on their schedule is critical. At 1-3 in the division race, another Ravens loss could cripple them down the home stretch when those tie-breakers come into play. Where they are also hurting is their conference win-loss record currently at 5-5. This alone may prove to be their biggest hurdle because best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference is the second tie-breaker right behind head-to-head games.

Division crown probability: 51% (down 9%)

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Packers, Bengals, Rams, Steelers

Post-season probability: 74% (down 11%)

Cleveland Browns 7-6-0

Since their bye week the Browns have picked up a game-and-a-half on both the division leading Ravens and the second place Bengals. Both have been losing close games and have two game losing streaks apiece. which both lost. The Browns jumped from last in the division to second in just one weekend as they own the tie-breaker with the Bengals.

They hold a 2-2 division record but need help with their conference record which is currently 4-5.

Division crown probability: 23% (up 13%)

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Packers, Steelers, Bengals

Post-season probability: 37% (up 15%)

Cincinnati Bengals 7-6-0

The Bengals had the 49ers beat this past weekend and gave the game away. The loss gave a boast to Cleveland though. Cincinnati is certainly a roller coaster every game. They can get hot in the first half and then don’t show up to finish. The good news is that they are 3-1 in the division and 5-3 in conference play.

Division crown probability: 21% (down 4%)

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, Browns

Post-season probability: 36% (down 15%)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers 6-6-1

The Steelers were getting killed by the lowly Vikings and then came back and might could have pulled it out. But knucklehead plays by knucklehead players defeated them.

Pittsburgh has the farthest journey to make the playoffs and even if they win out, they just might not. Currently 2-2 in the division and 4-4 in conference play.

Division crown probability: 6% (up 1%)

Last five games: 2-2-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Titans, Chiefs, Browns, Ravens

Post-season probability: 13% (down 7%)


AFC East

#1 seed New England Patriots 9-4-0

Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Colts, Bills, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 99% (same)

AFC South

#2 seed Tennessee Titans 9-4-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins

Post-season probability: 99% (up 2%)

NFL: SEP 12 Browns at Chiefs Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AFC West

#3 seed Kansas City Chiefs 9-4-0 (up one seed)

Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Chargers, Steelers, Bengals, Broncos

Post-season probability: 97% (up 7%)


Wild Cards

#5. Los Angeles Chargers 8-5-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders

Post-season probability: 81% (up 18%)

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

#6. Indianapolis Colts 7-6-0 (up three seeds)

Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Cardinals, Raiders

Post-season probability: 61% (up 4%)

#7. Buffalo Bills 7-6-0

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Buccaneers, Panthers, Patriots

Post-season probability: 65% (down 12%)


On the Outside

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

#8. Cleveland Browns 7-6-0 (up three seeds)

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders, Packers, Steelers, Bengals

Post-season probability: 37% (up 15%)

#9. Cincinnati Bengals 7-5-0 (down three seeds)

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs, Browns

Post-season probability: 36% (down 15%)

#10. Denver Broncos 7-6-0 (up two seeds)

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Bengals, Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs

Post-season probability: 22%

#11. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-6-1 (down three seeds)

Last five games: 2-2-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Titans, Chiefs, Browns, Ravens

Post-season probability: 13% (down 7%)

Las Vegas Raiders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

#12. Las Vegas Raiders 6-7-0 (down two seeds)

Last five games: 1-4. Toughest opponents remaining: Browns, Broncos, Colts, Chargers

Post-season probability: 8% (down 5%)

#13. Miami Dolphins 6-7-0

Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Patriots, Titans

Post-season probability: 6%


Week 15 looking ahead: Results that could help the Browns

Thursday

Chiefs over Chargers

Saturday

Browns over Raiders

Patriots over Colts

Sunday

Panthers over Bills

Jets over Dolphins

Broncos over Bengals

Packers over Ravens