The Cleveland Browns wake up at home to a rainy, slightly warm day by Lake Erie with a Week 12 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Browns, at 3-7, have little chance to make the rest of the season interesting while the Bucs, at 5-5, lead the NFC South.
If Cleveland were in the same division as Tampa Bay, this week would be quite interesting for the season. Sadly for the Browns playoff hopes, the AFC North is a much better division with the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens and 6-4 Cincinnati Bengals leading the way.
What if Cleveland gets a victory in Jacoby Brissett’s last game as the team’s starter? Would it matter?
First, let's look at the current playoff standings. As noted, the Browns are four games back of the Ravens and three games back of the Bengals in the division. The team is also three games back of the sixth and seventh wild card spots.
A win this week hardly moves the needle in that regard but would keep the possibility of a 10-win season alive.
Second, a win against the Buccaneers is not as helpful as a win against Buffalo last week would have been. While the primary tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups, the conference record is the second one for the wild card. Beating an NFC opponent isn’t as helpful there.
Currently, Cleveland is 2-6 versus the AFC with both wins coming in the division. Their lone AFC North loss came to Baltimore but they will have a shot to revenge that later this year with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Of the top 10 teams in the conference, only the Bengals have less than four conference victories.
Finally, while a victory in Week 12 may not have huge implications when it comes to the playoffs, it could matter for keeping players engaged and creating momentum as Watson takes over. At 4-7, having just beaten Tom Brady, a returning Watson could lead the team to a winning record. At 3-8, having lost to an okay but not great Tampa team, players may start preparing for their offseasons now before Watson even returns.
While unlikely, the Browns still have a chance for a 10-win season and a push to the playoffs. Most importantly, Cleveland needs the rest of the season to be meaningful for the players and fans. A win this week keeps the final nail out of the coffin.