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Browns, AFC playoff picture: Fighting the good fight to remain near the top

The finish line is in sight for a postseason bid

The Cleveland Browns did what they needed to keep their playoff hopes alive as quarterback Joe Flacco has given this passing offense new hope and has fans excited for the playoff chase.

Back when Flacco played for the Baltimore Ravens, those squads had strong defenses as does the Browns so there are some similarities. Flacco has the ability now as he did then to take care of the ball and hit deep shots. He continues to say it would be a tough road and that he would need to clean up the turnovers for this team to have a chance to win it all.

The biggest winner this week is the Buffalo Bills who went from the #9 seed to now the sixth slot, last week held by the Cincinnati Bengals who are now outside looking in as they swapped seeding.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have lost four in a row but still maintain the AFC South Division lead. At one time, they had a three-game lead but have lost consecutive games to the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite the losing streak, the other clubs in their division have had losing efforts as well.

Miami clinched a playoff spot this week with their win over Dallas. There remains a good possibility of gathering the Number 1 seed in these last two weeks.

It should be noted that unless Cleveland can claim the #1 seed or win the AFC North Division, their current standing of the #5 seed is an advantage for them. In the playoffs, the #1 seed will rest the first week of the tournament, then #2 will play #7, #3 versus #6, then #4 will play at home against #5. The fourth seed in all likelihood will be the AFC South division winner. Three teams are trying to win that division, and all are considered the weak link going into the post-season. Plus, the Browns have beaten all three clubs this year.

A playoff win right out of the gate can only help this Browns team and depending on which squads win during the opening round, just may gain Cleveland a home game.

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


AFC North

#1. seed Baltimore Ravens 12-3-0

The Ravens’ have maintained the AFC’s top seed as they beat the NFC’s best team San Francisco on Monday Night Football. Baltimore really does have a phenomenal team with a stout defense and of course Lamar Jackson and his legs.

Next week the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins with the winner set up for the top seed in the upcoming playoffs. The AFC North Division title is basically theirs although Cleveland does have a slight chance. Last week the Ravens became the first and only AFC team to clinch a playoff spot and are currently on a five-game win streak.

Division crown probability: 95% (up 5)

Last five games: 5-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Dolphins, Steelers

Post-season probability: 100% (same)

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns 10-5-0

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 on Thursday Night Football. They completely control their destiny. Their seeding did not change with the win and has been a feel-good story in the NFL this year with all of the starters that now live on IR. They do have a slight chance to win the division.

Division crown probability: 18% (up 8)

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

Post-season probability: 99% (up 12)

Cincinnati Bengals 8-7-0

No NFL team was hotter than the Bengals, until they were beaten by division foe Pittsburgh who has playoff aspirations of their own. The loss completely took away Cincy’s playoff seed and are now on the outside hoping to get in these last two games. Both of their final games are against good competition so the road is very bumpy.

Division crown probability: 1% (same)

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

Post-season probability: 20% (down 12)

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7-0

The Steelers finally stopped their three-game losing streak and took the Bengals to the woodshed in their effort to right this ship and hopefully grab that final seed in the playoffs. Their final two games are not going to be an easy haul whatsoever.

Division crown probability: 1% (same)

Last five games: 2-3-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Seahawks, Ravens

Post-season probability: 13% (up 10)


AFC East

#2. seed Miami Dolphins 11-4-0

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

Post-season probability: 100% (up 2)

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

AFC South

#4. seed Jacksonville Jaguars 8-7-0

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

Post-season probability: 72% (down 9)

AFC West

#3. seed Kansas City Chiefs 9-6-0

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

Post-season probability: 99% (same)


Wild Cards

#5. Cleveland Browns 10-5-0

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

Post-season probability: 99% (up 12)

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

#6. Buffalo Bills 9-6-0

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

Post-season probability: 94% (up 24)

#7. Indianapolis Colts 8-7-0

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

Post-season probability: 59% (up 10)


On the Outside

#8. Houston Texans 8-7-0

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

Post-season probability: 37% (down 18)

#9. Cincinnati Bengals 8-7-0

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

Post-season probability: 20% (down 12)

#10. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7-0

Last five games: 2-3-0. Toughest opponents remaining: Seahawks, Ravens

Post-season probability: 13% (up 10)

Las Vegas Raiders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

#11. Las Vegas Raiders 7-8-0

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

Post-season probability: 2% (up 1)

#12. Denver Broncos 7-8-0

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

Post-season probability: 4% (down 15)


Eliminated: Patriots, Jets, Chargers, Titans


Week 17 looking ahead: Results that could help the Browns

Thursday

Browns over Jets

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Sunday

Patriots over Bills

Raiders over Colts

Panthers over Jaguars

Dolphins over Ravens

Titans over Texans

Seahawks over Steelers

Chargers over Broncos

Chiefs over Bengals