Playoff-clinching scenarios filtered the social media feeds and podcasts of Cleveland Browns fans all week.
But victories by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills quickly put the kibosh on any Week 16 celebrations.
Cleveland did their part, though, with a dominant showing against the Houston Texans on Sunday, and as ESPN’s Jake Trotter pointed out on Twitter, that makes the Browns all but a lock to make it to the postseason.
The Browns now have a 99.2% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN FPI (Cleveland can't officially clinch this weekend after Buffalo/Pittsburgh wins)
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) December 24, 2023
ESPN Stats now gives the Browns a 99.2 percent chance to earn a wild-card playoff spot this season.
Cleveland is the only non-division leader with 10 victories, and Buffalo is the only AFC wild-card contender with nine.
Three AFC South teams enter Week 17 at 8-7, joining the Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Denver Broncos at that mark.
That means the Browns can clinch a playoff spot as early as Thursday night by beating the New York Jets.
New York, eliminated and down to their third quarterback, showed some fight in beating the Washington Commanders on Sunday.
But oddsmakers still have the Browns early six-point favorites in the last Thursday night contest of the year.
By beating the Texans this week, Cleveland also kept alive their much-thinner division title hopes.
Browns fans have to root for the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens and then for an additional Ravens loss to the Miami Dolphins or Steelers during the final two weeks of the season.
That would allow Cleveland to win the division on the fourth tiebreaker (conference record) in the event of a tie.
If Baltimore beats the 49ers, they’ll clinch the division by owning the third tiebreaker (common opponents).