The Cleveland Browns (7-8) are a long shot to make the playoffs, but they aren’t eliminated heading into Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.
Winning the AFC North is the Browns’ best chance to make the postseason after Saturday’s 24-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
On Sunday, the Browns got some help with the Baltimore Ravens losing 41-21 against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers losing 36-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here is a look at the AFC North division standings heading into Week 17:
- Bengals (9-6)
- Ravens (8-7)
- Steelers (7-7-1)
- Browns (7-8)
FiveThirtyEight’s Elo forecast gives the Browns about an 11% chance to make the playoffs, and an 11% chance to win the division.
The New York Times’ playoff predictor gives the Browns a 14% to make the postseason, and a 13% chance to win the division.
To win the division, the Browns would need to win their final two regular-season games: on Jan. 3 on the road against the Steelers and at home on Jan. 9 against the Bengals.
— Zay_Brenes (@Zay_Brenes) December 26, 2021
Despite the 15-10 loss to the Steelers on Halloween, Cleveland opens as a 3-point favorite against Pittsburgh.
The Browns beat the Bengals, 41-16, on Nov. 7 in Cincinnati.
It’s also worth noting the Browns haven’t won two consecutive games since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2021 season.
It won’t be easy, but #Browns have a realistic path to the playoffs. One that does not rely on multiple teams having a tie game, point differentials or needing Jim Sorgi to come through in a big spot.
— Tom Moore (@Tom_RedRight88) December 27, 2021
Plus, the Browns haven’t won the division since 1989.
In addition to winning their final two games, the Browns would need the Bengals to lose Jan. 2 at home against the Chiefs (11-4).
Also, the Browns would need the Ravens to lose one of their final two games: Jan. 2 at home against the Los Angeles Rams (11-4) or on Jan. 9 at home against the Steelers.
The Chiefs have opened as a 4.5-point favorite against the Bengals, and the Rams are a 3-point favorite against the Ravens.
While the Chiefs have already won the AFC West division for the sixth consecutive year, they are fighting for home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
In Week 17, the Ravens might have to rely again on third-string quarterback Josh Johnson.
If the Browns and Bengals finish 9-8, Cleveland would win the AFC North because it would have beaten Cincinnati twice in the season series.
The Browns would also win the division if the Browns, Bengals and Ravens finish with a 9-8 record.
Cleveland would have the best head-to-head tie breaker considering the Browns would be 3-1 in those games, the Bengals would be 2-2 and the Ravens would be 1-3.