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NFL Power Rankings: Browns playoff hopes hurt heading into Week 16

Cleveland’s margin for error is slim to none now.

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Here is a summary of how the Cleveland Browns are viewed across mainstream media outlets in NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season.

CBS Sports - No. 18 (down 1 spot)

Competing against the Raiders with a third-string quarterback and so many players out because of Covid is a good sign. But they might have to win out to get into the playoffs.

ESPN - No. 18 (down 3 spots)

How hot is Kevin Stefanski’s seat: 1. Cold seat

The Browns have been up and down in Stefanski’s second season, in large part due to injuries and COVID-19 issues. But the reigning NFL Coach of the Year is in no danger of losing his job after taking the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 18 years last season and helping them to their first playoff victory since the 1994 season. - No. 17 (down 2 spots)

The insidious nature of the COVID-19 virus put the Browns in a nearly impossible situation in Week 15. Cleveland was without multiple starters and key personnel against the Raiders, including its top two quarterbacks and head coach Kevin Stefanski. But the backup Brownies stepped up. Nick Mullens performed well as the emergency QB, and the defense thrived ... until Derek Carr drove the Raiders to the winning field goal on the final play of the game. At 7-7 with a difficult schedule ahead, the Browns now face an uphill climb to a postseason return. “This one hurts,” Mullens said. “I really believed in the fourth quarter that this night was destined for Cleveland. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out like that.”

Sporting News - No. 16 (down 1 spot)

The Browns are failing to piece together enough of a passing game but they still have a strong rushing attack again with Nick Chubb up without Kareem Hunt. The defense, powered by Myles Garrett, has done its job, but needed a lot more help for a playoff return.

Yahoo Sports - No. 14 (up 2 spots)

The Browns had a great effort Monday. They deserved to win. But they fell short, and the loss is damaging to their playoff hopes. It stinks for them because before the COVID-19 outbreak, their schedule set up well for them to steal the AFC North.

Bleacher Report - No. 15 (down 1 spot)

It can hardly be called a surprise that the Cleveland Browns lost to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday. The team was short more players than you can count on both hands, including its best wide receiver and top two quarterbacks. Head coach Kevin Stefanski was out too, sidelined by the COVID-19 outbreak that caused the game to be delayed two days.

Still, after watching Nick Mullens lead the Browns to a one-point lead late only to see that league dashed by a Daniel Carlson field goal, acting head coach Mike Priefer admitted to reporters that this loss stung.

“That locker room right now is hurting,” Priefer said. “That’s the most I’ve seen it in that kind of pain. You’re upset when you lose. Obviously, you’re joyous when you win. But when you lose that type of game, that was tough.”

Cleveland should be hurting. Had the Browns won, they would have taken the lead in the AFC North. The loss dropped the team to 12th in the AFC. And with a short week to prepare for a trip to Lambeau to face the Packers, the 2021 Browns are circling the proverbial drain.

USA Today - No. 21 (down 5 spots)

Instead of being in the AFC North lead, they’re in 12th place following Monday’s loss to Las Vegas. Now they must successfully navigate the AFC’s toughest remaining schedule (Green Bay, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) to reach the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1988-89 – though playing two division foes might actually present an opportunity.

Listed below is a summary table of where teams in the AFC North are ranked this week.

Bengals Browns Ravens Steelers
CBS Sports 11 18 13 15
ESPN 14 18 13 15 12 17 16 18
Sporting News 13 16 14 15
Yahoo Sports 13 15 14 16
Bleacher Report 14 15 17 16
USA Today 13 21 14 19
Average 12.9
(up 0.7)
(down 2.0)
(down 2.5)
(up 1.6)