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Can the Browns make Jack Conklin a playoff prophet?

Cleveland’s right tackle was in a similar situation with Tennessee in 2019. Can the Browns make a similar playoff run?

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

The Cleveland Browns playoff hopes appear to be slipping away following Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.

The first ugly loss of the season has the Browns sitting at 2-4 overall, with identical 1-3 marks at home and within the AFC.

A lone bright spot for the Browns is that they are only one game off the pace in the AFC North as the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are not exactly lighting the NFL on fire.

The situation is a familiar one for right tackle Jack Conklin, who while playing with the Tennessee Titans in 2019 saw the club start off at 2-4 only to eventually finish at 9-7, make the playoffs and ultimately go to the AFC Championship Game.

Getting to that point starts with getting their act together this week against the Baltimore Ravens, Conklin said in a team-provided transcript:

“I think really just sticking together. I was talking the guys about it, my last year in Tennessee, we were 2-4 and we ended up finishing 9-7 and making the AFC Championship Game. It is about just catching some fire and getting on a roll. It all starts this week in Baltimore. We just have to start making good plays, playing well as complementary ball as a team and then it will start rolling along together.”

There are a few similarities between the Titans in 2019 and the conundrum the Browns find themselves in this season.

Tennessee still had four division games left on the schedule after their poor start and they went 3-1 in those games (although one of those victories came in the last game of the season against the Houston Texans, who had already clinched the division and had nothing to play for). Still, it was enough to get the Titans to nine wins and earn a playoff spot.

The Browns still have five division game remaining, including two games each with the Ravens and Bengals. Taking care of business in the division is always key, but this year it takes on even more importance given how tight the standings currently are.

The Titans also benefitted from an AFC that was very top heavy as the Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots all had 12 or more wins, while the rest of the conference was bunched up with nine teams posting losing records.

This season is shaping up in a similar fashion as after the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, who are the class of the conference, everyone else is bunched up and the quality of their play varies from week to week.

To truly emulate the Titans, who went on a 6-1 run after falling into their 2-4 hole, the Browns need to get their act together starting this week when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. The following week they host the Bengals before heading into their bye week, so winning both of those games would get Cleveland back to .500 and in a better frame of mind heading into the second half of the season.

That might be a lot to ask for a Cleveland team that appears to have hit rock bottom, but if they can come out of the bye at 4-4, the remaining schedule features winnable games against the Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints and Washington Commanders, along with games against the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which are among those group of teams that has been inconsistent.

That then leaves the trio of divisional games, including a season finale against the Steelers that could see the Browns needing a win to grab what appears at this point to be an improbably playoff position.

Is that likely? With the way the Browns played this past Sunday against the Patriots probably not. But as the Titans showed in 2019 it is possible.

It is up to the Browns on whether or not they want to call it quits on the season after just six games or pull it together in time to make something out of this year, starting this Sunday against the Ravens.