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How the Cleveland Browns can win the AFC North after Steelers' loss

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss to the Washington Football Team on Monday, the Cleveland Browns remain in contention to win the AFC North.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from Dec. 7, 2020.

Even after their 41-35 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday advanced their record to 9-3, the Cleveland Browns were given just a one percent chance of winning the AFC North by advanced analytics website Five Thirty Eight.

RELATED: More Cleveland Browns coverage from WKYC

But after the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their first loss of the season in a defeat at the hands of the Washington Football Team on Monday, the Browns saw their odds of winning the division quintuple.

Sure, that might mean that the odds of Cleveland winning its first division title since 1989 are still only five percent, but as Lloyd Christmas once said, "so you're telling me there's a chance?" With that in mind, let's take a look at the Browns' remaining paths to winning the AFC North heading into the final four weeks of the season.

Scenarios 1 and 2: Browns beat out Steelers

With the Browns two games back of the Steelers in the standings, there's still enough time for Cleveland to finish ahead of Pittsburgh at season's end.

The two scenarios that could see this happen would require the following results:

Scenario 1

  • Browns go 4-0
  • Steelers go 1-3 or 0-4.

Scenario 2

  • Browns go 3-1
  • Steelers go 0-4.

Either scenario would require Cleveland winning its Week 17 matchup with Pittsburgh at FirstEnergy Stadium. They would also require the Steelers losing at least two -- and potentially all three -- of their games before then, which consists of road matchups against the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals and a home game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile, the Browns' three remaining games before their regular-season finale vs. Pittsburgh include a home game against the Baltimore Ravens and road games against the New York Giants and New York Jets. While it may not be likely, it's at least feasible that the Browns and Steelers could enter their Week 17 contest with the same record and the division on the line.

Scenario 3: Browns win tiebreaker vs. Steelers

If the Browns and Steelers finish the 2020 season with the same records, the AFC North title would then go to a tiebreaker. And who wins that tiebreaker would come down to which games Pittsburgh loses between now and the end of the regular season.

If the Steelers lose to the Bills and Colts but beat the Bengals, they would hold a tiebreaker advantage over the Browns as the result of Pittsburgh having a better division record. Cleveland already has two division losses on its resume, while a win over the Bengals on Dec. 21 would ensure that the Steelers couldn't finish with any more than one.

If Cincinnati upsets Pittsburgh, however, and the Browns beat the Ravens on Monday Night Football next week, as well as the Steelers in Week 17, Cleveland and Pittsburgh would finish the season with the same division record. And if that happens and the Browns and Steelers finish the 2020 season with the same records, Cleveland could own the next tiebreaker as the result of owning a better record in games vs. common opponents.

In order for this result to play out, the following scenarios would have to take place:

Scenario 3

  • Browns go 4-0
  • Steelers go 2-2, including loss to Bengals

Scenario 4

  • Browns go 3-1, including wins vs. Ravens
  • Steelers go 1-3 or 0-4, including loss to Bengals

Scenario 5

  • Browns go 2-2, including win vs. Ravens
  • Steelers go 0-4

Scenario 6

  • Browns go 2-2, including win vs. Giants
  • Steelers go 0-4

As noted earlier, any of one of these scenarios playing out is largely unlikely -- hence the Browns currently only having a five percent chance of winning the division. But with four weeks remaining in the season, Cleveland's division title hopes remain alive nonetheless.

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