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Playoff Watch 5.0: Browns remain near top of AFC playoff picture

Three games remain, and no team is considered a patsy

The Cleveland Browns did what they had to do to defeat the lowly Chicago Bears and it wasn’t pretty. But wins are not decorated ornaments placed on a tree surrounded by lights, candy canes, and collectibles your children made while growing up.

Victories are not easy in the NFL. The Bears had come in with the league’s second-best run defense and completely stymied Cleveland’s attack in this aspect. But now that they have won two in a row, the playoffs seem a bit more real.

Every game from this point on is critical to their ascent towards the post-season tournament. Just three games remain in the 2023 regular season, and the Browns are in a good spot as long as they continue to win. Many a team has faltered going down the stretch and hopefully, this roster is guided in the right direction.

Let’s examine what the other teams are doing, and who has the best chances of making the postseason.


AFC North Division

#1. seed Baltimore Ravens 11-3-0

The Ravens’ have maintained the AFC’s top seed as they beat the South Division leader Jacksonville Jaguars. The division title is just a sliver away from being in Baltimore and is theirs to lose. The question now is can they retain the #1 seed in the final three weeks and keep it away from Miami, which is on the schedule, or Kansas City?

With the win over the Jaguars, the Ravens are the first and only AFC team to clinch a playoff spot.

Division crown probability: 90% (up 4)

Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: 49ers, Dolphins, Steelers

Post-season probability: 100% (up 1)

Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Cleveland Browns 9-5-0

The Browns have an unimpeded direct path to the playoffs now. Two of their final games will be tight with another game against the lowly New York Jets. They completely control their destiny. Their seeding did not change with the win.

Division crown probability: 10% (down 2)

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Texans, Bengals

Post-season probability: 87% (up 3)

Cincinnati Bengals 8-6-0

No NFL team is hotter than the Bengals. The Browns were able to defeat them early in the season and the final game of the regular season will have some playoff ramifications to be sure. They have found a new life with a new quarterback. They were out of the playoff seeding completely, but are now sitting in a good spot.

Division crown probability: 1% (same)

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers, Chiefs, Browns

Post-season probability: 32% (up 6)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers 7-7-0

The Steelers are now on a three-game losing streak and don’t look like any sort of a good club going down the stretch as they have lost four of their last five games. They have fallen completely out of the Wild Card race and are now in 10th place with a brutal three-game stretch ahead.

Division crown probability: 1% (down 2)

Last five games: 1-4-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Bengals, Seahawks, Ravens

Post-season probability: 3% (down 22)


AFC East

#2. seed Miami Dolphins 10-4-0

Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Cowboys, Ravens, Bills

Post-season probability: 98% (same)

AFC South

#4. seed Jacksonville Jaguars 8-6-0

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Titans, Buccaneers

Post-season probability: 81% (down 11)

NFL: AUG 26 Browns at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AFC West

#3. seed Kansas City Chiefs 8-5-0

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Bengals

Post-season probability: 99% (up 1)


Wild Cards

#5. Cleveland Browns 9-5-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Texans, Bengals

Post-season probability: 87% (up 3)

NFL: SEP 10 Bengals at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#6. Cincinnati Bengals 8-6-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Steelers, Chiefs, Browns

Post-season probability: 32% (up 6)

#7. Indianapolis Colts 8-6-0

Last five games: 4-1. Toughest opponents remaining: Texans

Post-season probability: 49% (up 8)


On the Outside

#8. Houston Texans 8-6-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Browns, Titans, Colts

Post-season probability: 55% (up 10)

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

#9. Buffalo Bills 8-6-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins

Post-season probability: 70% (up 31)

#10. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-7-0

Last five games: 1-4-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Bengals, Seahawks, Ravens

Post-season probability: 3% (down 22)

#11. Denver Broncos 7-7-0

Last five games: 3-2. Toughest opponents remaining: Raiders

Post-season probability: 19% (down 31)

NFL: DEC 20 Raiders at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#12. Las Vegas Raiders 6-8-0

Last five games: 2-3. Toughest opponents remaining: Chiefs, Colts, Broncos

Post-season probability: 1% (same)

#13. Los Angeles Chargers 5-9-0

Last five games: 1-4. Toughest opponents remaining: Broncos, Bills, Chiefs

Post-season probability: 1% (same)


Week 16 looking ahead: Results that could help the Browns

Saturday

Steelers over Bengals

Chargers over Bills

Sunday

Browns over Texans

Seahawks over Titans

Commanders over Jets

Cowboys over Dolphins

Patriots over Broncos

Buccaneers over Jaguars

Monday

Raiders over Chiefs

49ers over Ravens