Entering Week 17, the Cleveland Browns still had a shot at winning the AFC North — and perhaps even the No. 1 seed. They did their part by knocking off the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football, which secured their spot in the postseason. On Sunday, however, their chances of taking the division crown slipped away.
In order for the Browns to take that title, they needed the Baltimore Ravens to lose their next two games. Their first was against the Miami Dolphins with the second game being against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That second game no longer matters since the Ravens destroyed Miami by a score of 56-19.
That win improved them to 13-3 on the year and clinched the AFC North as well as the No. 1 seed in the conference. Baltimore could elect to rest their starters next week but with a bye week in the playoffs, they might decide to get some work in. As it stands now, they've won their previous six games with their last defeat coming at the hands of the Browns — who beat them in Baltimore.
Browns could use this as a blessing in disguise
Cleveland has been fantastic at home but getting home-field advantage in the postseason was always a long shot. Knowing now that they're not moving beyond the No. 5 seed, rather than having to wait until Week 18, could be a blessing for them.
Throughout the season, this team has been banged up and that includes Amari Cooper suffering a heel injury that kept him out of their Week 17 win. Also out were Dustin Hopkins and Corey Bojorquez. During the game, Elijah Moore joined them when he suffered a concussion. In addition to them, players such as Za'Darius Smith and Juan Thornhill have been dealing with nagging injuries.
With all that going on, the Browns could use their final game as a bye week for their veterans. Allowing Cooper, Smith, Thornhill, and any other veteran who is banged up to take the week off could do wonders for them when the playoffs start. For a team that's been fighting injuries all season, that could be a major boost.