Even after the Cleveland Browns fell to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Browns are still in the thick of things in the AFC heading into the stretch run:
The AFC playoff picture right now 🤯
Who’s making it in the last 4 spots 👀 🤔 pic.twitter.com/9q2U7M3cWQ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 21, 2021
A win on Monday would have brought the Browns to the top of the AFC North.
However, the shorthanded Browns suffered the 16-14 loss and dropped to the bottom of the division.
In addition, unfortunately, according to tiebreakers, the Browns are in 12th in the 16-team AFC:
- 10. Raiders 7-7
- 11. Dolphins 7-7
- 12. Browns 7-7
Although the Browns find themselves in a very undesirable position, they can dig themselves out of it.
ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight provides the numbers behind how the Browns can make the postseason.
Good News: All Hope Is Not Lost
According to FiveThirtyEight’s interactive predictions chart, the Browns are certainly not out of the playoff race.
Here is how they are projected in the AFC North:
- Bengals (8-6) – 51 percent chance of making the postseason (38 percent chance at winning the division)
- Ravens (8-6) – 56 percent (39 percent)
- Steelers (7-6-1) – 18 percent (11 percent)
- Browns (7-7) – 16 percent (12 percent)
Now, if the Browns win out, they have a 95 percent chance at making the playoffs.
They will also have an 81 percent shot at the AFC North division crown.
That is the good news, but what is the bad news?
Bad News: The Browns Most Likely Need To Win Out
It is not all sunshine and roses for the 2021 Browns in Weeks 16 through 18.
If they lose any of their final three contests, their playoff odds do not seem very strong.
Let us take a look into the future.
It is January 9, and Cleveland is 9-8.
Here is how a 2-1 stretch to end 2021 would look for the Browns, according to FiveThirtyEight:
- W16: 9-8 Browns lost to GB: 35 percent at postseason (25 percent at division)
- W17: 9-8 Browns lost to PIT: 12 percent (9 percent)
- W18: 9-8 Browns lost to CIN: 3 percent (0 percent)
So, on the surface, Week 16’s contest seems like it is very important.
However, it is not as important as the two divisional matchups to end the season.
Of course, it is preferable to win against Aaron Rodgers and the 11-3 Packers.
How healthy will the Browns be though?
No one knows for sure at this point.
Here are Tuesday’s practice estimations:
Packers-Browns injury report estimations since neither team practiced today pic.twitter.com/SXBtIF5ehE
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) December 21, 2021
There are some significant names on that list.
If Myles Garrett plays, then that will help Cleveland.
Baker Mayfield and Kevin Stefanski seemingly will be on the field for the Christmas Day contest:
Kevin Stefanski and Baker Mayfield will be available for Saturday against Green Bay given the 10-day quarantine, Stefanski confirms. #Browns
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) December 21, 2021
The Browns are a seven-point underdog to the NFL-best Packers, who have been a very impressive team since their Week 1 loss.
On the bright side, a Browns loss to the Packers does not mean the end of the season for Cleveland.
A 2-1 finish remains attainable, and that can still get the Browns in the playoffs.
Just for those wondering, a 1-2 or 0-3 finish unsurprisingly means no postseason berth.
Browns fans just have to hope the team gets healthy.
They also have to hope for Cleveland’s second consecutive winning season for the first time since the late 1980s.