Browns Playoff Odds Hinge on Final Four-Game Stretch in Tight Wild Card Race

Dan Israeli
Baker Mayfield shakes hands with Devlin Hodges after Week 13 game.
Baker Mayfield shakes hands with Devlin Hodges after Week 13 game. / Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns' disappointing year, following a preseason of relentless hype, is hanging on by its last thread as far as playoff hopes are concerned. Cleveland is +900 to make the postseason, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, but has an outside chance of sneaking in if two other AFC Wild Card hopefuls falter during the final four-game stretch of the season.

Currently, the 7-5 Pittsburgh Steelers occupy the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, while the 7-5 Tennessee Titans are just behind them in the standings. Despite the Browns being two games behind at 5-7, with a pair of 6-6 teams wedged in between (Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts), there is a path for Cleveland to make the playoffs, in part due to one very big win from earlier in the season.

Starting with the Titans, after a winnable game in Oakland this week, Tennessee has a tough final three games against the Texans (twice) and Saints. If the Titans drop all three of those games, the Browns can pass them in the standings by running the table. The Browns must finish with a better record than the Titans, since Tennessee owns the tie-breaker via its Week 1 win in Cleveland.

As for Pittsburgh, the Browns may only need to tie their AFC North rival in the standings, since Cleveland has a chance to finish with a stronger divisional record. The Browns are currently 2-1 in division, including a pivotal road win over the Ravens, while the Steelers are 3-2. If Baltimore beats Pittsburgh in Week 17, the Browns have a good chance to finish with a better divisional record than the Steelers, handing them a key tiebreaker over their rival.

The Raiders and Colts still play a factor in all of this, but with the Steelers and Titans currently leading the list of teams the Browns can overcome, they are the main focus here.

Of course, the Browns' success hinges on them running the table, which includes the Cincinnati Bengals (twice), Arizona Cardinals and an all-or-nothing rematch with the Ravens. They'll need a lot of help getting there, but the Browns' playoff chances are surprisingly alive as we enter the final stretch.

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