CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns' hopes are still alive. But in order for the Browns to make a second consecutive postseason, it's going to take a heck of a run.
Following a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, Cleveland's record on the 2021 season fell to 6-6. According to advanced analytics website Five Thirty Eight, the Browns now have a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs -- a 13 percent drop from a week ago. Meanwhile, The New York Times' model currently gives Cleveland a 25 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, which also marks a 13 percent drop from last week.
Now entering their bye week, the Browns will be looking to get healthy ahead of their final five weeks of the regular season. With that in mind, let's take a look at where Cleveland's path to the playoffs stands following its Week 12 defeat.
AFC North standings
- Baltimore Ravens 8-3
- Cincinnati Bengals 7-4
- Cleveland Browns 6-6
- Pittsburgh Steelers 5-5-1
Following a week in which all four AFC North teams played games within the division, the division title picture is beginning to come into focus. At 8-3, the Ravens hold a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals, who defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, while the Browns are now in third place following their second loss within the division.
The good news for Cleveland? The Browns won't have to wait long to gain a game on Baltimore, as they will host the Ravens coming out of their bye week on Dec. 12. What's more is that Cleveland still has games against the Steelers and Bengals remaining on its schedule, giving the Browns a potential path to the top of the AFC North.
The bad news for Cleveland? The chances of the Browns catching the Ravens, who hold a 2.5-game lead over Cleveland, are slim. According to Five Thirty Eight, the Browns now have just a five percent chance of winning the AFC North, while The New York Times' model shows Cleveland's division title odds at eight percent.
In other words, if the Browns are going to make the postseason, it will likely have to be as a Wild Card team.
AFC Wild Card
Through 12 weeks, here's how the AFC Playoff picture looks:
- Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
- New England Patriots (8-4)
- Tennessee Titans (8-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
- Buffalo Bills (7-4)
- Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
- Denver Broncos (6-5)
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
- Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
- Cleveland Browns (6-6)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
- Miami Dolphins (5-7)
As has been the case for most of this season, the AFC playoff picture looks a lot different now than it did a week ago.
While the seven current playoff teams remain the same, the rest of the conference has been shaken up. After previously being in eighth place of the Wild Card standings, the Denver Broncos now sit at fourth, while the Las Vegas Raiders have made a similar climb from seventh to fifth.
The Browns, meanwhile, only fell one spot, having been jumped by the Broncos and Raiders while moving past the Steelers. At 6-6, Cleveland is just a half-game back of the third and final Wild Card spot, but is also one of 11 teams in the AFC with at least six wins at this point in the season.
At this point, 10 wins will likely be enough to clinch a Wild Card spot in the AFC, which means the Browns will likely need to win at least four of their final five games.
Here are the games left on the Browns' 2021 schedule:
- Dec. 12 vs. Baltimore Ravens
- Dec. 18 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
- Dec. 25 at Green Bay Packers
- Jan. 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Jan. 9 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Browns' final five weeks of the season won't be lacking in intrigue, as they'll all include opponents who are currently considered playoff contenders. After its rematch with the Ravens, Cleveland will host the Raiders in a game that could have critical implications from a tiebreaker standpoint.
The Browns' lone remaining NFC opponent will be on Christmas, when they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. After that, they'll wrap up the season with division games at Pittsburgh and vs. Cincinnati, at which point Cleveland's path to the playoffs -- if it still exists -- will be more clear.