CLEVELAND — Following Sunday's 10-7 win over the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns now lay claim to a 6-3 record heading into Week 11 of the 2020 NFL season.
Yet despite earning another victory, the Browns actually saw their playoff chances slide with advanced analytics website Five Thirty Eight giving Cleveland a 58 percent chance of ending the longest active postseason drought in the NFL (17 years). That's down 2 percent from the 60 percent odds the Browns possessed following their Week 8 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, which preceded Cleveland's bye week.
Of course, there's still plenty of football to be played and a lot can change between now and the end of the regular season. With that in mind, let's take a look at where the Browns stand in the race for the AFC Playoffs and what they'll need to do to make the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.
With seven games remaining in their season, the Browns are currently three games back of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. The gulf between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, however, feels larger than the standings might suggest as the latter is the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL.
Perhaps the more interesting conversation for the Browns when it comes to their division is how they compare to the suddenly descending Baltimore Ravens.
Following a 23-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, the Ravens now lay claim to the same 6-3 record that Cleveland does. With a potential division title seemingly out of reach for both teams, beating out Baltimore for a Wild Card spot could prove pivotal for the Browns in their quest to end their 17-year playoff drought.
AFC Wild Card
After entering their bye week in line for the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC, the Browns would be on the outside looking in at the postseason if the regular season were to end today. According to NFL.com, Cleveland is currently in ninth place in the AFC and needs to climb at least two spots between now and the end of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.
Through 10 weeks, here's how the AFC Playoff picture looks:
- Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0)
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
- Buffalo Bills (7-3)
- Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)
- Miami Dolphins (6-3)
- Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
- Tennessee Titans (6-3)
- Cleveland Browns (6-3)
- New England Patriots (4-5)
- Denver Broncos (3-6)
While the Browns are currently on the outside looking in, the good news is that there's at least a two-game gap between their place in the standings and the teams still behind them. What's more is that based on opponents' winning percentage, Cleveland lays claim to the second-easiest remaining schedule in the AFC, with only the Raiders possessing a slightly easier slate.
The bad news for the Browns is that the Raiders also possess a head-to-head tiebreaker over them, while Cleveland's own head-to-head tiebreaker over Indianapolis would be rendered meaningless should the Colts win the AFC South. That will put an increased impetus on the Browns to win their remaining matchups against other teams in the Wild Card race, including games against the Tennessee Titans (Dec. 6) and Ravens (Dec. 14).
Here are the games left on the Browns' 2020 schedule:
- Nov. 22 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
- Nov. 29 at Jacksonville Jaguars
- Dec. 6 at Tennessee Titans
- Dec. 14 vs. Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football)
- Dec. 20 at New York Giants
- Dec. 27 at New York Jets
- Jan. 3 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Considering the crowded nature of the AFC Wild Card race, it would behoove the Browns to rack up wins against the perceived lesser opponents on their schedule and win high stakes games against the Titans and Ravens.
In what will mark their third straight home game, Cleveland will host the 3-5-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday before hitting the road for consecutive away games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Titans. A Dec. 14 home matchup against the Ravens on Monday Night Football looms large, while back to back road games against both New York teams will give the Browns an opportunity to pad their win total.
Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, there could be a lot on the line when Cleveland hosts Pittsburgh in its 2020 regular-season finale on Jan. 3. And if the Steelers keep winning, that could be the case for both teams.