The Cleveland Browns enter Week 8 of the NFL season in strange and unfamiliar territory.
That is because, if the season were to end today, the Browns would be the No. 6 seed in the AFC and be hitting the road to face the Baltimore Ravens in a playoff game.
The Browns at 4-2 are currently tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers but lose the tiebreaker thanks to the disappointing loss to the Steelers in Week 2. Cleveland is also a half-game ahead of the Buffalo Bills, who are 4-3, in the playoff standings thanks to the Browns already having taken their bye week.
Following their win against the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland saw its playoff odds increase to 62 percent, according to The New York Times. Of the various outcomes for the playoffs, the Browns have a two percent chance of earning the No. 1 seed and a bye, a 16 percent chance of hosting a wild card game, and a 44 percent chance of playing on the road in a wild card game, according to The Times.
Those numbers all increase with a win this week against the Seattle Seahawks, a game where the Browns are currently a three-and-a-half-point underdog with quarterback P.J. Walker getting the start in place of the injured Deshaun Watson, and a loss hurts but not horribly as they will still have a 60 percent chance of a playoff berth.
While winning is the best path to the playoffs, the Browns don’t play in a vacuum, so there are other games to keep an eye on that could help out the cause.
To that end, here is a handy rooting guide for Browns fans for this week’s slate of games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Buffalo Bills (4-3)
Thursday night provides an opportunity for quarterback Baker Mayfield to do his old team a favor and take down the Bills. Tampa Bay is 2-0 on the road this year, but the Bills have been stout at home against primarily weak competition and will be looking to take out their frustrations after losing last week to the New England Patriots. Root for the Buccaneers.
New England Patriots (2-5) at Miami Dolphins (5-2)
The Patriots already bagged their upset of the season last week against the Bills, so hitting the road and taking down the Dolphins is asking a lot. Miami is currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but they have as many losses as the Browns, so another defeat would be nice. Root for the Patriots.
New York Jets (3-3) at New York Giants (2-5)
The Jets have gotten a little bit frisky under quarterback Zach Wilson after winning two games in a row, while the Giants are puzzling over why they gave quarterback Daniel Jones $92 million in guaranteed money in the offseason with Tyrod Taylor currently outplaying Jones. A win by the Jets would not be horrible since the Browns play them later in the season and can gain the tiebreaker advantage, but more losses for AFC teams are always better than more wins. Root for the Giants.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
Do you even need to ask? The Jaguars are likely going to win the AFC South Division, so their outcomes are not as impactful on the Browns. The Steeles, on the other hand, are a divisional foe, and any time they lose is a good day. Root for the Jaguars.
Houston Texans (3-3) at Carolina Panthers (0-6)
The Texans are in a group of three-win teams that are just on the outside of the playoffs in the AFC. The Browns will have a shot at the Texans later in the season, so just like the Jets, a win by the Texans would still be manageable for the Browns. The Panthers have to win sometime, right? So why not make it this week? Root for the Panthers.
Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) at Denver Broncos (2-5)
The Chiefs appear to once again be the class of the AFC while the Broncos … do not. The Chiefs have taken down the Browns in 16 consecutive games, including a win early this month, and pinning your hopes on the Broncos is not a comforting thought. Root for the Broncos.
Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
Baltimore appears poised to run away with the AFC North even if they only have one more win than the Browns. In the desert, the Cardinals are working hard in their battle to secure the No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. Just like the Buccaneers and Baker Mayfield, perhaps old friend Joshua Dobbs will do the Browns a solid this weekend. Root for the Cardinals.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-2)
This is an easy one as there is never a bad time for a divisional opponent to lose a game. The Browns would appreciate as much of a buffer as possible between them and the Bengals before the team’s meet in the final week of the regular season, and a loss by Cincinnati would also be a benefit in potential tiebreaker scenarios since the Browns have a win against the 49ers in hand. Root for the 49ers.
Chicago Bears (2-5) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)
We’ll ignore for a moment that someone at NFL headquarters thought the Bears were a good idea for a Sunday night game. The matchup looks even worse now that the Chargers are falling apart. The Bears may actually have a chance with Tyson Bagent at quarterback, but it still is going to be a tough road for Chicago, especially if the Chargers offense can get rolling. Root for the Bears.
Las Vegas Raiders (3-4) at Detroit Lions (5-2)
Another “what were they thinking” primetime matchup on Monday night. On one side is Las Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels, maker of odd decisions during games and loser of 32 of his last 46 games as a head coach. On the other side is a Detroit team that just got whipped by the Ravens and, in the process, may have been exposed a bit for maybe not being as good as their record might indicate. As always, root for the AFC team to lose. Root for the Lions.
How are you feeling about the Browns chances at making the playoffs?