Like most of the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens made short work of the San Francisco 49ers Monday.
It looked like any hopes for a Cleveland Browns division title and top conference seed were dashed.
But the Joe Flacco renaissance and the Browns unlikely contention is a better story with a title on the line.
And we should have known there is still hope for Cleveland in this unusual season.
Bryan Knowles did the analysis and laid out how the Browns can end the season as top dawgs (via Bryan Knowles on Twitter).
AFC bye week race! 32 scenarios remain.
— Bryan Knowles (@BryKno) December 26, 2023
There are 32 possible scenarios for the Ravens, Dolphins, and Browns- the top three teams by record right now.
And if things go just right, there is one outcome that gives the Browns a bye on Wild Card weekend.
Cleveland has to win their remaining games and Baltimore has to lose to the Dolphins and Steelers.
While the Ravens will be heavy favorites over Pittsburgh, anything is possible in an AFC North matchup.
That scenario gives the Browns the AFC North division title based on their superior division record.
Miami has to beat the Ravens this weekend and then lose to the Buffalo Bills in Week 18.
If Buffalo loses to the Patriots in Week 17, they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives against the Dolphins.
But in their division rivalry, anything is possible regardless of the situation.
Losing to Buffalo drops Miami’s conference record to 8-4, while the Browns finish 9-3 by winning out.
That would be enough to give the Browns a week of rest and a home field throughout the playoffs.
Cleveland is 7-1 at home with their only blemish being the last-minute emergency debut of Dorian Thompson-Robinson.