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I know this might sound like a knee-jerk response to the Browns shit-pumping the Falcons in Week 10 (and it kind of is), but things are heating up in Cleveland and I’m straight giddy about it. The Browns looked like a different team that can be legitimately dangerous on offense and consistently stop opponents on defense. It’ll take more performances like Week 10 and a lot of luck, but the Browns have a chance to squeak into the playoffs this year. As it stands now, the Ravens are the 6th seed in the AFC and thus have the last wildcard spot. The Ravens! At 5-5! Unfortunately for the Browns, other teams that are 5-5 in the AFC include the Bengals, Dolphins, Colts and Titans. But after those teams (and the 4-6 Broncos), the Browns are next in line for that final wildcard spot! Here’s a quick synopsis of their remaining schedule and why I’m not insane for the title of this article:
Weeks 12 and 16: Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
The Browns kick off the rest of their season after the bye week by heading to Cincinnati to face the Bengals, who will be looking to bounce back from a 24-21 loss to the Ravens. In that loss, Joe Mixon only managed 14 yards on 12 carries and Andy Dalton threw for 211 yards. I know they didn’t have A.J. Green, but his presence doesn’t change the narrative; the Bengals are averaging 329.3 yards per game this year, ranked 26th in the NFL. The Browns shouldn’t have much trouble stopping such an anemic offense, especially with an extra week to prepare. My level of confidence for Week 16 will be dictated by how the Browns play in this first match-up
Week 13: Houston Texans (7-3)
After the Bengals, the Browns fly down to Houston to face Deshaun Watson and the 7-3 Texans. I think this is definitely the hardest remaining game on the Browns schedule, so I cannot guarantee a good or even a close game for this on. The Texans have won seven in a row after starting 0-3 and have held opponents to 21 points or less in all but one of their last six games. To win this one, the Browns will really have to focus on shutting down Watson and eliminating turnovers.
Week 14: Carolina Panthers (6-4)
When the NFL schedule first came out, most people probably chalked this up as a Browns loss right away. Now, after an embarrassing loss to a mediocre Lions team and two more potential losses coming in Seattle and Tampa Bay, the Panthers might already be dead by the time they get to Cleveland. Bold prediction: the Panthers will be underdogs for this game and the Browns will cover the spread
Week 15: Denver Broncos (4-6)
OOOOOOOOHHHHH this could be a big game. Week 15 – both teams could be fighting for that last wild card spot, the loser could be eliminated, absolutely electric stuff. Personally, I can’t believe the Broncos are even 4-6 with Case Keenum and their defense isn’t what it used to be so I think the Browns can definitely pull out a win in Denver.
Week 17: Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
The playoff picture may already be decided at this point, but there’s also a chance this is a miniature playoff game for both teams. Similar to my thoughts on the Broncos, I can’t believe the Ravens would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Regardless of Joe Flacco’s injury status or Lamar Jackson’s development over the next five weeks, there is no reason the Browns can’t win this season finale. If the Browns were able to pull off that ugly 12-9 OT win in Week 5, they can handily beat the Ravens after a season’s worth of polishing.