CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns might not have played this past week, but their playoff odds did improve -- at least slightly, according to one outlet.
According to the advanced analytics website Five Thirty-Eight, the Browns' chances of making the playoffs now sit at 20 percent -- up one percent from last week. Meanwhile, The New York Times' playoff machine kept Cleveland's playoff odds at 21 percent.
With five weeks left in the regular season, there's still a lot of football to be played with the Browns slated to face five opponents currently fighting for their own playoff lives. With that in mind, let's take a look at Cleveland's path to the playoffs heading into its Week 14 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.
AFC North standings
- Baltimore Ravens 8-4
- Cincinnati Bengals 7-5
- Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5-1
- Cleveland Browns 6-6
While the Browns fell from third to fourth place in the AFC North, their positioning in the division didn't actually change much. In fact, one could argue that it improved.
With the Ravens losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals being defeated by the Los Angeles Chargers, all four teams in the AFC North find themselves separated by two games or less. What's more is that Cleveland has one game remaining with each of its three division rivals, starting with this week's home game vs. Baltimore.
According to Five Thirty-Eight, the Browns now have a 10 percent chance of winning the AFC North -- meaning that their path to the playoffs is just as likely to come via a division title as it is a wild card spot. In order to win its first division championship since 1989, however, Cleveland will likely have to win four of its five remaining games, with one of those wins likely needing to be against the Ravens.
AFC Wild Card
Through 13 weeks, here's how the AFC Playoff picture looks:
- New England Patriots (8-4)*
- Tennessee Titans (8-4)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
- Buffalo Bills (7-4)*
- Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1)
- Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-6)
- Cleveland Browns (6-6)
- Denver Broncos (6-6)
- Miami Dolphins (6-7)
*Patriots and Bills play on Monday Night Football on Dec. 6.
Just as they did at this time last week, the Browns find themselves in seventh place of the AFC Wild Card standings, although the order around them has shifted. With the AFC's three current Wild Card teams remaining in the same -- albeit in a new order -- the Steelers have climbed from eighth to fourth place, with the Colts climbing from sixth to fifth after a win over the Houston Texans.
While Cleveland currently remains behind Las Vegas, the Browns will host the Raiders on Dec. 18 in a game that could have significant implications on a potential tiebreaker between the two teams.
With five games remaining, Cleveland is still at a point where it largely controls its own destiny. But another loss -- especially this weekend vs. the Ravens -- could lead to some more intense scoreboard watching over the course of the next month.
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
As previously mentioned, the Browns' final five games all come against opponents who remain in the playoff picture, including four in the AFC and three in the AFC North. The lone exception for Cleveland is a Christmas Day matchup against the Green Bay Packers -- which might be the one game left on the Browns' schedule that they can afford to lose.
For a team that hasn't won consecutive games since Weeks 3 and 4, Cleveland is going to have to find a consistency that it has largely lacked throughout the 2021 campaign.