The Cleveland Browns experienced their usual disappointing trip to Denver last weekend in a frustrating loss to the Broncos.
Not only did the Browns lose to the Broncos for the 13th time in their last 15 meetings, but quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson exited the game with a concussion, wide receiver Amari Cooper injured his ribs, and defensive end Myles Garrett heard something “pop” in his shoulder, leading to speculation that there might be something more severe than meets the eye.
Even with the loss the Browns remain in the AFC playoff hunt, although they dropped one spot to sit at No. 6 heading into this week’s slate of games. Cleveland also still has a 68 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to The New York Times. That number jumps to 82 percent if the Browns can beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, and only dips to 63 percent with a loss.
The standings are tightening up with just six games remaining in the regular season, so let’s take a run through this week’s rooting guide for Browns fans.
Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Tennessee Titans (4-7)
The Colts are suddenly showing a little bit of life under quarterback Gardner Minshew as they have won three games in a row - although it should be noted those wins have come against teams that are a combined 7-26. They get another lower-end team this weekend with the Titans and rookie quarterback Will Levis. The Browns hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Colts, but it would not hurt to see them pick up the loss this weekend. Root for the Titans
Arizona Cardinals (2-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Arizona is busy playing out the string and has lost two of three following the return of quarterback Kyle Murray. The Steelers, on the other hand, continue to find ways to win with an anemic offense that has Pittsburgh as the only AFC team currently in a playoff position with a negative point differential. The Cardinals are winless on the road this season and winning in Pittsburgh is a big ask, but the Browns need the Steelers to lose a winnable game at some point. Root for the Cardinals
Miami Dolphins (8-3) at Washington Commanders (4-8)
The Dolphins continue to be the AFC’s version of the Dallas Cowboys as they beat the bad teams on the schedule while losing to the good ones. All three of Miami’s losses this season have come on the road, a potentially bad sign since this week is a road game, but the Commanders fall squarely in the bad team bucket with five losses in the past six games, and the franchise is currently counting down the final days of the Ron Rivera era as head coach. The Dolphins likely have one more clunker in them, but this week may not be it. Root for the Redskins
Denver Broncos (6-5) at Houston Texans (6-5)
The less said about Denver’s win last week the better. Houston’s late-game luck ran out last week as kicker Matt Ammendola’s 58-yard field goal doinked the crossbar, costing Houston a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are now in a good position to win the AFC South, leaving the Texans in a battle with the Browns for a Wild Card spot. Cleveland lost the tiebreaker with Denver last week but still has the Texans on the schedule, so while there is never a bad time to root for a Denver loss, this week it is extra beneficial. Root for the Texans
Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-6)
Even with Kansas City’s recent struggles, they have alternated wins and losses over the past four games, it is hard to see them not winning the AFC West for the eighth consecutive season. Therefore a win or a loss doesn’t impact the Browns all that much. (Although a loss would help the Baltimore Ravens in their irritating quest to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC.) The Packers showed some life with a Thanksgiving Day win over the Detroit Lions, and have worked their way into the playoff discussion in the NFC. That, along with winnable games in the three weeks following the Kansas City game, could put an extra bit of pep in Green Bay’s game. Root for the Packers
Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3)
The Bengals continued their post-Joe Burrow freefall with a third consecutive loss last weekend. With Jacksonville on pace to claim the AFC South title, this is another game where the Browns are not horribly impacted by either team winning. Cleveland hosts Jacksonville in Week 14, so the Bengals slapping the Jaguars around a bit can’t hurt. Root for the Bengals
How are you currently feeling about the Browns chances at making the playoffs if the team has to turn to Joe Flacco at quarterback?