The Cleveland Browns hopes to make the postseason went up in smoke after their loss to the Steelers, but still have an unrealistic path to the playoffs.
Following their Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns playoff hopes appeared to have disappeared. Now at 5-7 and falling another game behind the Steelers for the final AFC wild card spot, it is difficult to imagine the Browns having any path to the playoffs.
The Browns now sit behind the 9-3 Buffalo Bills, two 7-5 teams (Titans and Steelers), and two 6-6 teams (Colts and Raiders). With this many teams ahead of them for the two wild card spots, the Browns would not only need to win out this season, but they would also need a lot of help.
Cleveland winning out remains an unlikely task in itself with their Week 16 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens looming. Baltimore is the hottest team in the league and almost every opponent has struggled to find a way to slow down the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens offense. Even though the Browns beat Baltimore earlier in the season, that game seems like a major outlier.
But say the Browns can manage to limit Jackson and the Ravens once again and finish the season on a four-game winning streak. Even though their chances to make the playoffs would be slim, a little help, starting in Week 14, could give them a decent chance to make the playoffs.
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The Browns have dug themselves so deep into a hole that it is hard to imagine them climbing out of it to make the playoffs. But as the other AFC teams competing for wild card spots have much more difficult schedules and will beat up on each other, all the Browns have to do is handle their business the rest of the season and possibly take advantage of those matchups.
After Week 14, the Titans will have to face the Texans twice and the Saints, as both teams currently sit in the playoffs. The Raiders have a much easier schedule, but they have struggled the past few weeks. The Steelers will have to overcome several injuries to their offense. The Colts will also have to face the Saints during Week 15.
In order for the Browns to have a 100 percent chance to reach the playoffs, these are the results they would need each week, on top of winning the rest of their games, according to the New York Times NFL playoff simulator:
- Week 14: BAL beats BUF, ARI beats PIT, OAK beats TEN
- Week 15: HOU beats TEN, BUF beats PIT, NO beats IND
- Week 17: HOU beats TEN, DEN beats OAK
Although it is unrealistic for the Browns to make the playoffs, they still have a path to the postseason. However, the biggest question is not if the Browns can get the help they need, but if the Browns can manage to win the rest of their games.
Cleveland has shown many issues that have not gone away as the season has gone on, like their offensive line, penalty issues, or Freddie Kitchens’ game management issues. With so many problems still following the Browns, it is unrealistic to imagine them winning the rest of their games.
But all the Browns can ask for at this point of the season is to still have a chance to reach the postseason. Their odds may be incredibly slim, but Cleveland still has a path to the playoffs, even as unrealistic as it is.