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Browns AFC North, #1 seed hopes down to 1 scenario

AFC playoff standings have the Browns left hoping for a miracle to get a bye week

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For the Cleveland Browns, the picture above is the perfect encapsulation of their view in the race for the top seed in the AFC. Chasing the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, the Browns chances of securing the AFC North and a bye in the AFC playoffs are slim going into the last two weeks of the season.

The fact that this Cleveland team is still one of only three teams capable of capturing the top overall seed (not the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills or Cincinnati Bengals) says a ton about their resilience.

The current AFC playoff picture looks like this:

With two games remaining on the schedule, the Browns are two games back of the Ravens and one game back of the Dolphins for the best record in the AFC. Those two teams play each other in Week 17 while Miami finishes up with Buffalo and Baltimore plays the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 18.

Of all the scenarios available for the final six games for the three teams vying for the top seed in the AFC, only one includes Cleveland taking the bye week:

If the squares and colors are overwhelming, the breakdown is simple:

  • Browns win their last two games
  • Dolphins beat the Ravens in Week 17, lose to the Bills in Week 18
  • Ravens lose their last two games

Only one of those results seems unlikely: Baltimore losing to Pittsburgh. It is important to note that divisional games tend to have different results than expected on a more regular basis and the Steelers could be playing to keep HC Mike Tomlin’s “no losing seasons” streak alive.

Cleveland needs to wrap up their playoff spot first in Week 17 with a win over the New York Jets then hope to see things fall their way with Miami versus Baltimore. If that happens, Week 18 could be very exciting as the AFC playoff standings muddle at the top.

Do you think the Browns enter Week 18 with a shot at the AFC North and the top seed? Would you be able to root for the Steelers to beat the Ravens in that scenario?