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Why the Cleveland Browns' playoff odds are higher than they appear

With a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns would end the NFL's longest active postseason drought.

CLEVELAND — CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video from the player above is from Dec. 27, 2020.

When the Cleveland Browns lost to the New York Jets on Sunday, many viewed the defeat as a significant blow to the team's playoff chances.

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After all, the Browns had entered Week 16 with around a 90 percent chance of clinching a playoff spot this season, according to various forecasts from outlets including ESPN, Five Thirty Eight, The New York TimesFootball Outsiders and even NBC News' Steve Kornacki. But after losing to the Jets -- in a game that would have clinched a playoff spot for Cleveland -- the Browns have since seen those postseason odds drop to between 53 and 68 percent, depending on the outlet.

That figure, which varies based on each outlet's projection system, however, is likely to be misleading. Here's why:

With the Pittsburgh Steelers having already locked up the AFC North, head coach Mike Tomlin has already announced that Mason Rudolph will start at quarterback in place of Ben Roethlisberger. Thus, despite Pittsburgh being 12-3, the 10-5 Browns are currently listed as a 9.5-point favorite heading into Sunday.

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So what does have to do with the Browns' playoff odds?

Since Cleveland only needs a win over the Steelers to secure a playoff spot, the baseline of the Browns' playoff odds should start with the likelihood they beat Pittsburgh. With the moneyline now listed at Cleveland -425, there's a 80.95 percent implied probability of the Browns winning on Sunday.

Factor in the scenarios in which Cleveland could still qualify for the postseason with a tie or loss, and the Browns' playoff odds are even higher than that -- at least based on the betting odds. So while Sunday's loss was an undeniable hit to Cleveland's chances of ending the NFL's longest active playoff drought (17 years), it may not have been as big of a hit as some forecasts would lead you to believe.


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