Things are looking mighty bleak for the Cleveland Browns playoff chances this year.
Even if they run the table with Deshaun Watson, they are far from likely to secure a wild card spot.
According to ESPN’s latest evaluation, Cleveland is mired in the 13th position in the AFC playoff race.
And 11 of the 12 teams ahead of them would win tiebreakers even if the Browns caught them.
A very tight AFC Playoff picture through week 11. pic.twitter.com/5XNcRPLzvr
— Thomas Carrieri (@Thomas_Carrieri) November 21, 2022
The team is not quite mathematically eliminated, clinging to a 5% chance per the ESPN analysis.
But with a record number of one-score games and upsets across the NFL this season, anything is possible.
And if the Browns can take the next 3 games, their playoff odds could jump to 10, 20, and then 25%.
There’s a reason they play the games, and not a single Browns player appears ready to do otherwise.
The Math Is Not In Cleveland’s Favor
There are 3 teams tied at 6-4 who occupy the final 2 wild card slots as well as the 8th position.
Cleveland has to pass at least 2 of them and hope the 9th place Chargers (5-5) don’t get hot, too.
New England, Cincinnati, and the NY Jets are the main targets.
And the bad news is that winning out the last 7 games might not be enough.
Joe Burrow says it’s tough to say why the Bengals have struggled to beat the Browns pic.twitter.com/ZTxdC7C9P2
— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) November 1, 2022
Those 3 teams have to fall off their current winning pace which would leave them with 10 victories each.
And since each of them beat the Browns head-to-head and own better conference records, the Browns lose all tiebreakers.
Cincinnati is the oddsmakers’ favorite to make the postseason despite one of the most difficult remaining schedules.
In fact, the only team under .500 on their schedule is the Browns, and we know they won’t win that game.
But There Are Reasons For Hope
Cincinnati came out of their bye week to win an important contest against a division opponent.
It’s pretty much how they started their post-bye Super Bowl run last year.
But their schedule offers a challenge every week, and a 3-4 finish wouldn’t be terribly shocking.
The Jets have some winnable games, but appear to have a quarterback controversy brewing.
PATS SHOCK THE JETS WITH A GAME-WINNING PUNT RETURN 😱
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 20, 2022
Teams have imploded with less of an issue over the years, so New York is the second-best target.
Bill Belichick currently has a 56% chance to make the playoffs, but his team faces a lot of tough games, too.
His defense will keep the Patriots in it every week, but until they win 4 more games, there’s a chance they slip.
And one can never tell what the Chargers will do each week, especially with a banged-up receiving corps.
But Can The Browns Run The Table?
Tampa Bay comes in as 3.5-pt favorites off their bye week and trying to maintain a division lead.
But if the team rallies to win Jacoby Brissett’s final start, the odds of running the table are better than nil.
It will all come down to how long it takes Deshaun Watson to catch up to NFL speed.
Safety John Johnson is among those expecting a boost from Watson that extends beyond the offense.
— Brad Ward (@WardonSports) November 22, 2022
And better efforts from the defense and special teams are more vital than any offensive impact.
With a little luck or balanced-out karma, Cleveland could be in the thick of things at 7-7 by Week 15.
They figure to be favored in at least half of the final 6 games with Watson, and possibly as many as 5.
But they’ll have to leave it all on the field each week because one more slip-up all but eliminates the Browns.