The Cleveland Browns did their part on Sunday, but the San Francisco 49ers dropped the ball as the race for the No. 1 pick heads into its final weeks.
Three more weeks. Just three more weeks until the 2016 NFL season comes to a close and we can turn our full attention to what really matters for the Cleveland Browns.
And that, of course, is the 2017 NFL Draft.
Things were looking good for the Browns on Sunday in their quest to secure the top overall selection in next spring’s draft. Cleveland already had a loss in the books and the San Francisco 49ers were in possession of a 14-0 lead over the New York Jets.
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But the 49ers are determined to make things difficult on the Browns and ultimately fell in overtime to the Jets, turning what looked to be an insurmountable two-game lead into a tight race to the finish.
Despite that, the Browns still hold an 82.8 percent chance of “earning” the top pick in the draft, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
But we still can’t discount the 49ers as a threat as they have lost 27 of their past 34 games and still have to play the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. The final hope for a San Francisco win may lay in the hands of the Los Angeles Rams - a team that is as dysfunctional as any you will find in the NFL.
While the 49ers did the Browns no favors on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles did in losing for the eighth time in their past 10 games. With games remaining against the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, a second Top 10 selection for the Browns is looking more and more like a certainty.
That should help some of the sting out of the weekly (and highly predictable) NFL power rankings.
No. 32: Robert Griffin III did nothing to improve the quarterback play in Cleveland and if he continues to struggle, it’ll only make a terrible situation worse in the offseason. The Browns need to find a true franchise quarterback, and landing two picks in the top 10 should make that very possible. (Pittsburgh No. 6, Baltimore No. 15, Cincinnati No. 21)
No. 32: A few resident Browns fans at Bleacher Report confessed they’d forgotten who their starting quarterback was in Week 14. Robert Griffin III went and reminded them all. With his combination of unnecessary scrambling and patting the football down far too long, he’s the perfect candidate to lead this team to its 0-16 destiny. It’s too bad his horrible return (see: throwing footballs into triple coverage) spoiled a promising day from the defense. Cleveland deserves better. (Pittsburgh No. 7, Baltimore No. 12, Cincinnati No. 24)
No. 32: Realize there are Browns fans who would like to see Cody Kessler get more run at quarterback, in the interest of evaluation. Cleveland had to start RGIII. This was the quarterback the organization acquired to start in 2016. Griffin “won” the job. The Browns couldn’t bench him after one half of football this season. So when RGIII was ready, he was going to play. After watching that flea-flicker, I am comfortable with the team starting Kessler. (Pittsburgh No. 6, Baltimore No. 14, Cincinnati No. 21)
No. 32: This edition of the Power Rankings runs on Dec. 13. That will mark the one-year anniversary of the Browns' last win, a 24-10 victory over the 49ers with Johnny Manziel starting at QB. The Browns have lost 16 straight since, and look to avoid 17 straight in Buffalo this week. (Pittsburgh No. 8, Baltimore No. 12, Cincinnati No. 20)
No. 32: Hue Jackson should start game-planning for that Week 16 home game against the San Diego Chargers right now. That’s not a great chance for a win, but it’s Cleveland’s best remaining opportunity. Nobody remembers 1-15 teams, but 0-16 will live forever. (Pittsburgh No. 7, Baltimore No. 14, Cincinnati No. 23)