Browns playoff hopes: Three primary games in Week 17

The Browns don’t play until Monday but two vital games on Sunday at 1 PM could decide their playoff fate:

The Cleveland Browns have playoff hopes. They are alive and well going into Week 17. Quickly, they could go from alive to basically dead depending on the result of one game.

We start with the team’s wild-card hopes: They are slim. The Browns would need a wild combination of factors to go their way over the final two weeks to be able to claim a wild card spot. If all of the Week 17 games go in the right way, we will cover in detail what would need to happen in Week 18.

Suffice to say, Cleveland could still make the playoffs even if their hopes of the AFC North are squashed on Sunday. It won’t be easy but it still could be possible.

What is very simple, for either their hopes of winning the AFC North or the wild card spot, is that the Browns must win both of their final two games to have any shot at the playoffs. From a chronological perspective, their game comes last in Week 17 but nothing matters if they don’t beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

Before that game comes two vital games, both at 1 PM Sunday. The first is the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Kansas City Chiefs. This is the most important game for Cleveland. If the Bengals win, the AFC North crown will not come to northern Ohio in 2021 and that will leave the Browns praying for a wild card miracle.

The second game is also at 1 PM with the Baltimore Ravens facing the Los Angeles Rams. While this game is less important, the Ravens just have to lose one of their last two, a Baltimore loss would set up Cleveland nicely to control their destiny going into Week 18.

For the Browns it is very simple for Week 17:

Bengals loss + Ravens loss + Browns win = Cleveland control destiny for AFC North crown

Bengals loss + Ravens win + Browns win = Cleveland needs to win in Week 18 and have Baltimore lose to Pittsburgh to win AFC North

Bengals win = Cleveland out of AFC North picture and, depending on other Week 17 results, slim hope of wild card

Browns lose = Cleveland out of any playoff hopes in 2021

Browns playoff hopes: Thankfully, Chiefs and Rams have something to play for

Two games at 1 PM Sunday could put the Browns in the driver seat of their playoff hopes. Thankfully, the two teams Cleveland needs to win are still playing for something:

The Cleveland Browns currently do not control their own destiny to make the NFL playoffs but that could change by the start of their next game. The two games that do not involve the Browns directly, but that Cleveland needs to go a certain way for them to make the playoffs, take place this Sunday at 1 PM.

The Browns are hoping for the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Cincinnati Bengals with the Chiefs a road favorite. Cleveland is also hoping for the Los Angeles Rams to go on the road to beat the Baltimore Ravens, a cross country game at 1 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Thankfully for the Browns, both the Chiefs and Rams have something to play for in Week 17. Kansas City holds a one-game lead on the Tennesee Titans for the top seed, and a bye, in the AFC. Los Angeles is one game back of Green Bay, and tied with two other teams, at 11-4.

The Chiefs are looking to hold on to that top spot in the AFC while the Rams look to make a push to upend the Packers for the bye in the NFC.

Cleveland needs Kansas City to win and hopes Los Angeles can overcome the long plane ride and time change. If the Ravens beat the Rams, Cleveland would need them to lose against Pittsburgh in the final week of the season. At that point, the Steelers might be hoping to send Ben Roethlisberger out on top with a win over their rival.

Of course, none of that matters unless the Browns can win their two games.

Browns are AFC North champions if four games go their way in Week 17 & 18

While it doesn’t seem possible, just four games sit between the Browns and the AFC North championship:

The Cleveland Browns are 7-8 and somehow have a simple path to the AFC North championship.

After losing back-to-back close games in Week 15 and 16, the Browns continue to be in last place in the division. They are also in position for a top ten pick if they lose their last two games. Currently, with Sunday Night and Monday Night Football left to be played, Cleveland is currently slated to draft 13th.

Despite all of that, the Browns are also squarely in a position to win the AFC North title. Just four games need to go in their favor and the team would not only win the division but host a playoff game.

It starts with the two games that Cleveland has control of. The Browns must defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 and 18. In doing so, the Browns would secure the divisional tiebreaker over each division rival.

Then Cleveland needs the Baltimore Ravens to lose one of their two games and the Bengals to lose in Week 17 as well. The Ravens face the Los Angeles Rams before finishing with the Steelers while the Bengals face the Kansas City Chiefs next week.

The Ravens and Bengals will be underdogs in Week 17. If the Browns beat the Steelers and those two games go as currently favored, the Week 18 matchup between the Browns and Bengals would decide the divisional title.

If the Browns beat the Steelers and Bengals and
the Chiefs beat the Bengals and
the Rams or Steelers beat the Ravens…

… the Cleveland Browns are the AFC North champions, the fourth seed in the AFC and hosting a playoff game in January.

Browns playoff hopes: Simple not easy route to the division crown

Despite the loss in Week 15, the Browns have a simple (and a not so simple but realistic) path to the playoffs. Simple not easy:

The Cleveland Browns could have had the division lead going into Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season. That division lead would have also had them slotted in as the fourth seed in the AFC at this point.

While it feels like all is lost, the Browns still have a simple path to the playoffs. It is not a path that would be easy nor do they control their own destiny anymore but it is a path that is possible.

A few scenarios would clinch the AFC North for Cleveland.

The team winning their last three games against Green Bay, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and having Baltimore lose just one of their games (Cincinnati, LA Rams, Pittsburgh) would give them the divisional crown.

That is the simplest path to the playoffs for the Browns but it is not the only one. It gets more complicated but the team can actually lose to the Packers on Christmas Day and still get into the playoffs.

The key for Cleveland is that they can hold a key divisional tiebreaker if they beat both the Bengals and Steelers.

For the Browns to make the playoffs after losing on Christmas, all three divisional foes could only win one more game. While that may sound unlikely, each team faces a difficult stretch of games:

CIN: Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland
BAL: Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh
PITT: Kansas City, Cleveland, Baltimore

Out of those nine games, a lot of losses could pile up especially since the teams play each other.

The simplest path to the playoffs is still winning out and getting just one loss from the Ravens but there is another path.

Getting as many players back from the reserve/COVID-19 list will help but the Browns have their work cut out for them.

AFC North: A Week 15 win puts Browns at the top of the division

Only two of the seven games of importance for the Browns went their way but the most important did. Now, with a win, they lead the division and are highly seeded after Week 15:

The Cleveland Browns did not get a lot of help from games that mattered to them in Week 15. Of the seven games of interest to the Browns, only two of them went the way the team wanted:

Chiefs vs Chargers – Browns were rooting for the Chiefs and Kansas City came back to win in overtime. The first of two games in Cleveland’s favor.

Patriots vs Colts – Colts winning was not what the Browns desired.

Panthers vs Bills – Not surprising but the Bills victory went against Cleveland’s best interests.

Jets vs Dolphins – Dolphins are making a late charge so their victory is not a shock. Browns hope they don’t have to worry about Miami at the end of the day but could.

Titans vs Steelers – It is interesting to watch the two mainstays at the top of the AFC North this season. Neither is willing to fade into the background easily. Pittsburgh’s win was the chagrin of Cleveland.

Broncos vs Bengals – Another Bengals victory keeps them at the top of the AFC North. The Browns have to face them again this year with a chance to lose the all-important tiebreaker they currently hold.

Packers vs Ravens – The only other game that went Cleveland’s way was the most important, at least for this week. With the Baltimore loss, the Browns can tie the Bengals and Ravens at the top of the division.

Not only that, given the tiebreaker criteria, Cleveland would be leading the AFC North and in the fourth seed in the AFC playoff chase at the end of Week 15 with a win over the Raiders Monday.

Only two games went in the Browns favor in Week 15 but the most important one did. Now they just need to handle their business against Las Vegas today.

Browns playoff seeding can jump 8 spots in 2 weeks

From 12th seed to 4th seed in 2 weeks? Is ‘Everything coming up Browns’ late in the season? (Yes Simpson reference and video included):

There is an old Simpson’s clip that often surfaces when things are going well for someone. At the end, the character says “Everything’s coming up Milhouse.” You can see the full video below, it sums up the Cleveland Browns season so far:

The Browns season has been full of things that the team, and their passionate fanbase, was not happy about. Losses to really good teams. Inconsistent play all over the field. Baker Mayfield not taking the next step in his progression. Odell Beckham Jr. drama.

Most important, starting the season out with a 6-6 record was the biggest negative. Yet, much like Millhouse above, Cleveland has a chance to have everything come up their way.

Week 14 was a good start for the team. Going into the week, the Browns were the 12th seed in a parity-driven AFC. With their victory over the Baltimore Ravens and a few other games going their way (‘Everything’s coming up Browns’), Cleveland is now the eighth seed in the conference.

In Week 15, only two games going the Browns way could have them jump another four seeds in the conference. As we covered earlier, if Cleveland beats Las Vegas and Baltimore loses to Green Bay, the Browns will lead the AFC North. In as much, Cleveland will be the fourth seed in the AFC.

From 12th seed to fourth seed in two weeks, a meteoric rise. ‘Everything’s coming up Browns!’

AFC North: Breaking down the remaining strength of schedule around the division

Cleveland’s game on Saturday against the Raiders is the only matchup in the entire division for the rest of the year that features an opponent with a current losing record

With four games left to play, the AFC North is still up for grabs. All four teams are clustered within 1.5 games of one another. The stretch run is going to be crazy.

There is good news and bad news for the Browns and their remaining schedule. Cleveland has the seventh-most difficult schedule over the final four weeks across the entire NFL, per Tankathon.

The Browns’ final four games:

Week 15: Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)

Week 16: at Green Bay Packers (10-3)

Week 17: at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)

Week 18: Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)

It adds up to a win percentage of 56.7. That’s not easy.

However, the Browns schedule is the easiest of the four AFC North teams. Pittsburgh has the second-hardest overall remaining slate with a combined win percentage of .635. The Ravens are third at .625 and the Bengals are fifth at .596.

In fact, Cleveland’s game on Saturday against the Raiders is the only matchup in the entire division for the rest of the year that features an opponent with a current losing record. The playoff spot(s) will indeed be earned.

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Browns open as favorites for Week 15, Ravens underdogs in two vital games for playoffs

Early odds favor the Browns but not the Ravens. If the games actually follow suit, Cleveland has the lead in the AFC North going into Week 16 of the NFL season:

The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens split their season series one game apiece with Cleveland’s win in Week 14. The two teams won’t face off again this regular season, a playoff matchup is possible, however. While the two teams won’t play each other, they are in direct competition for the AFC North crown.

For the Browns, if they can defeat the Las Vegas Raiders and the Ravens lose to the Green Bay Packers, the AFC North lead is their’s after Week 15. The highest priority for Cleveland is to make the playoffs but the easiest route could be as conference champion. The added benefit is that the conference champion will host the first round of the NFL playoffs.

Early betting odds from Tipico Sportsbook has Cleveland as a 5.5 point favorite over Las Vegas with a low total line of just 41.5 points. The Raiders have lost two straight and five of their last six games this year.

Back at home, with Lamar Jackson hoping to play despite an ankle sprain suffered against the Browns, Baltimore is a 4.5 point underdog to Green Bay. The Ravens have lost their last two games and four of their last seven this year while the Packers have won their last two and only lost two games since Week 1 of the season.

If both games follow these betting lines, the Browns will enter the last three weeks of the season in the driver’s seat for the AFC North. Given all the struggles this year, an impressive turnaround.

With three wins, Browns can own key playoff tiebreaker

At 6-6, the Browns (somehow) have everything possible in front of them. With three wins in the division, the team would own a key playoff tiebreaker:

The Cleveland Browns are in a unique position in a very unique year in the AFC. Cleveland came into the season with loads of expectations after a successful season in 2020 and the addition of a lot of talent on the defense. Their 6-6 start to the season has been disappointing but they’ve lost to some very good teams and beaten the good to not so good teams on their schedule.

Going into their Week 13 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns can own a very key playoff tiebreaker. In order, the NFL’s tiebreaker systems first four are as follows:

  1. Head to head record between the two teams
  2. If in the same division, divisional record
  3. Record in common games
  4. Record in conference

After that, the tiebreakers get really convoluted like “strength of victory” and “strength of schedule.”

With games left against all three AFC North foes, Cleveland has a chance to own the first tiebreaker against Cincinnati and the second against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

The Browns will, likely, need to win at least four of their last five games. Defeating all three divisional opponents would give them a split head-to-head with the Ravens and Steelers while winning the head-to-head tiebreaker versus the Bengals.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh have already lost two games in the division with, assumed for this conversation, another loss to Cleveland making that three. If the Browns win all three divisional games, they will end the season with a divisional record of 4-2, taking any tiebreakers from all three teams in the AFC North.

Of course, the team would have to win enough games to at least tie one of the other AFC North teams for a playoff spot. That probably means winning that fourth game, at least, but Cleveland is only a half-game behind the Steelers, one game behind Cincinnati and two behind Baltimore.

While all the games are important to finish the season, the divisional games are extra important to put the Browns in the best position to make the playoffs.

Report: Ben Roethlisberger playing his last season with Steelers

Not a big surprise but a new report says Big Ben’s days in Pittsburgh are numbered:

The only constant in life is change. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, change happens far less often than for most teams in the NFL. Since 1969, the Steelers have had three head coaches. They replaced Chuck Noll with Bill Cowher then have had Mike Tomlin at the helm since 2007.

Pittsburgh has also had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leading the offense on the field since he was drafted in 2004.

To no one’s surprise, that is likely to be changing for the 2022 season.

According to a report from ESPN, Roethlisberger has told friends that this is his last season playing for the Steelers. While the report goes on to say that he does not plan to play for another franchise, it isn’t ruled out:

Roethlisberger has told many that he never would want to play anywhere other than Pittsburgh. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t surface next season in another NFL city, but that is “highly unlikely,” according to one source.

The Ohio native has been a thorn in the side of the Cleveland franchise since the team passed him over to draft TE Kellen Winslow.

Roethlisberger’s play on the field has diminished greatly over the last couple of seasons due to age and injury. In the playoffs last year, he threw four interceptions to the Browns but also led a furious comeback with 501 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Cleveland is scheduled to have one more game against Big Ben in both teams’ second to last game of the 2021 season.