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Browns Week 17 rooting guide: Playoff clinching scenarios

Cleveland is on the cusp of securing a playoff spot. The No. 1 seed in the AFC is still in play. A look at the best possible outcomes in Week 17.

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It is so close that the Cleveland Browns can almost touch it.

One more win - preferably this Thursday against the New York Jets - and the Browns will claim one of the AFC’s seven playoff spots. It is that simple - win and you are in.

The Browns are also mathematically alive to claim the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, an idea that we’ll give everyone a moment to process. While it might still be a long shot given that the Baltimore Ravens were the latest AFC North team to expose the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, the path to the top of the AFC is clear:

The Browns will clinch a playoff spot with:

  • A win or tie or
  • A Pittsburgh loss or tie or
  • A Buffalo loss or
  • A Jacksonville loss or tie or
  • A Houston loss or tie and an Indianapolis loss or tie

It all starts with a win by the Browns on Thursday night, but just in case here is the Week 17 rooting guide for Cleveland fans.

New England Patriots (4-11) at Buffalo Bills (9-6)

The Patriots did the Browns a solid by taking care of the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. Can they do it again this week against a sort of resurgent Bills team? Probably not, but it would give the Browns a little bit of wiggle room in the playoff seeding in case they have a misstep. Root for the Patriots

Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) at Indianapolis Colts (8-7)

The Raiders pulled off the shock of Christmas Day as two defensive touchdowns helped offset quarterback Aidan O’Connell not completing a pass after the first quarter to stun the Kansas City Chiefs. The Colts, meanwhile, fell apart against the Atlanta Falcons and have now lost two of their past three games as no one seems to want to win the AFC South. The Raiders how a (very) outside shot at beating out the Chiefs for the AFC West title, so we say Viva Las Vegas! Root for the Raiders

Miami Dolphins (11-4) at Baltimore Ravens (12-3)

This one is as easy as it gets. The Dolphins have to beat the Ravens to give the Browns any hope of clinching the No. 1 seed. And even if Cleveland can’t pull that off, having the Dolphins at the top of the AFC instead of the Ravens is preferable. Root for the Dolphins

Tennessee Titans (5-10) at Houston Texans (8-7)

The Titans are bumbling their way to the end of the season while the Texans are trying to stay afloat until quarterback C.J. Stroud clears concussion protocol. Someone has to win the AFC South among the Texans, Colts, and Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Browns may draw the winner in the opening round of the playoffs, so it just comes down to which team would be a better matchup. The Texans with Stroud are better than the Texans with Case Keenum, so let’s back Tennessee in this one. Root for the Titans

Carolina Panthers (2-13) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7)

The Panthers are playing out the string while the Jaguars are falling all over themselves during a four-game losing streak that has seen them go from potential No. 1 seed in the AFC to clinging onto the division lead in the AFC South thanks to holding the tiebreaker over both the Texans and Colts. Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence is hurt and may miss the game with a sprained AC joint, which might mean the Panthers can keep the game at least interesting. Root for the Panthers

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-7)

It’s time for the Steelers diminishing playoff chances, currently at 13 percent according to The New York Times, to be extinguished. The Seahawks are no one’s idea of a good team, but playing at home should be enough to wrap it up. Root for the Seahawks

Los Angeles Chargers (5-10) at Denver Broncos (7-8)

The Broncos are no longer a threat to Cleveland’s playoff chances, but no self-respecting Browns fan will ever wish goodwill to Denver. The Chargers at least showed some fight last week against the Bills, so perhaps they can keep that little bit of momentum going for one more week. Root for the Chargers

Cincinnati Bengals (8-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)

The Bengals are only slightly better off than the Steelers at the moment as they have just a 23 percent chance of making the playoffs. But a loss to the Chiefs would essentially knock Cincinnati out and give them nothing to play for in the season finale. Kansas City, while currently a bit of a mess, can clinch the AFC West with a win. While it would be fun to see the Chiefs sweat a bit more, it would also be nice to see the Bengals essentially eliminated. Root for the Chiefs