Where the 7-6 Cleveland Browns sit in the AFC playoff picture is a moving target.
After the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New England Patriots on Saturday night, the playoff picture looks like this:
The Top 7 seeds are:
- Kansas City Chiefs 10-4
- Tennessee Titans 9-4
- New England Patriots 9-5
- Baltimore Ravens 8-5
- Indianapolis Colts (wild card) 8-6
- Los Angeles Chargers (wild card) 8-6
- Buffalo Bills (wild card) 7-6
Colts throw another monkey wrench into the AFC playoff picture. Impressive that Frank Reich didn’t say this was just one game of 16. He told his team they had to win it and they played that way. No one will want to play the Colts if they get into the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/eYhoFDzj4d
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) December 19, 2021
The Browns and fellow 7-6 teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos remain the leaders of the fringe teams in the hunt.
Without playing on Sunday, the Browns can get some help in their playoff pursuits with three Week 15 games being of the utmost interest.
Here are those three games organized in order of kickoff time.
1. Tennessee Titans Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at 1:00 PM EST
The 9-4 Titans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the 6-6-1 Steelers on Sunday afternoon.
The Steelers remain very much in the hunt for the AFC North and an AFC playoff berth with four games to go.
The best path to the playoffs for any AFC North team (including the Browns) is to win the division which the Ravens at 8-5 are leading right now.
That means the Titans should defeat the Steelers on Sunday afternoon to put their playoff chances in even more jeopardy.
Five #Steelers to watch vs. Titans:
— Black and Gold Nation (@B_GNation1) December 19, 2021
2. Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Denver Broncos at 4:05 PM EST
This is an interesting matchup of 7-6 teams taking place in Denver.
The Bengals and Broncos possess the same record as the Browns.
Because the Bengals are also seriously contending the AFC North division, the Broncos should defeat the Bengals to give the Browns an opportunity to make it a two-team race between Baltimore and Cleveland.
If they lose, the model drops them to just a 15% chance.
Regardless of models/odds, a win today puts the Bengals back on the right direction towards the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/0OufU7uSZF
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) December 19, 2021
3. Green Bay Packers Vs. Baltimore Ravens at 4:25 PM EST
Though the Browns cannot see past tomorrow’s game against the Raiders, there will be a contingent of fans and coaches watching this game with more than a passing interest for two reasons.
The most obvious is that with a Ravens loss and a Browns win, the two teams would be tied for first place in the AFC North at 8-6.
(A Bengals could win could make this a three-way tie.)
The second reason is that the Browns travel to Lambeau to take on the Packers on Christmas Day.
Somehow the Ravens got off a little easier as they are hosting the Packers in Baltimore, but the Browns can measure where they are after a Ravens win in Week 14 as they look ahead to a Week 16 Green Bay Christmas Day showdown.
The Packers continue to impress at 10-3 and remain in contention with their fellow 10-3 NFC peers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals, for the top seed in the NFC.
Lamar Jackson has not practiced this week after suffering the ankle injury against the Browns last Sunday.
It will be a game-time decision as to who starts for the Ravens; it could be either Jackson or Tyler Huntley who played well against the Browns in relief of Jackson.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 18, 2021
A Green Bay win helps the Browns so let’s hope that Rodgers unleashes his magic in Baltimore before getting cold next week against the Browns.
The Browns still control their playoff destiny with four games left.
If they win all of them, it would be hard to argue they will sail into the playoffs even with this tight playoff picture.
A little help from other NFL teams wouldn’t hurt especially with a COVID-19 ravaged team taking the field against the Raiders on Monday.