How the Browns cannot get an AFC playoff spot in week 17

The Browns (10-5) head into week 17 of the 2020 NFL season to officially end their 18-year drought in the AFC playoffs. Despite seven teams now playing the playoffs in every conference, Cleveland is at risk of not securing any of three AFC placeholders despite double-digit wins.

From week 16, the Browns are the planned number 7, behind the victorious dolphins (10-5) and ravens (10-5) but ahead of the Colts (10-5). The Browns could have secured a place in the playoffs when the Colts had a big lead over the Steelers, but they couldn’t make a big comeback against the Jets.

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The Browns now have to beat the Steelers at home in week 17 to guarantee an AFC playoff spot. Pittsburgh won’t play much knowing that regardless of the outcome, it would get either number 2 or number 3 behind Kansas City. On paper, though, it’s a tough game for Cleveland.

The Browns know they would be there if they won thanks to an outright victory over the Colts. In the worst case scenario, you would stay behind the dolphins and ravens and maybe get a rematch with the Steelers in the wildcard round.

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The Browns would also suffer defeat if they faced the Colts or Titans alone, who fail to win AFC South 6-10 for beating both teams.

But losing to the Steelers also opens the door for the Browns to be left out in a variety of ways. Here they are broken down:

1. Lose Browns; Dolphins, ravens, stallions and titans win

This is child’s play. This would mean the Browns finish at 10-6 while the Dolphins, Ravens, Colts and Titans get in 11-5 and the Titans become AFC South champions. Miami has the toughest game in Buffalo, but like the Steelers, the Bills can rest the players if they don’t care about # 2 versus # 3. Baltimore has it easy in Cincinnati, while Indianapolis has it even easier in Jacksonville.

2. Lose Browns and Dolphins; Ravens, stallions and titans win

This would tie the Browns and Dolphins at 10-6 a.m. while the Ravens, Colts, and Titans would all board at 11-5 p.m. Cleveland and Miami haven’t played against each other this season, so their first tiebreaker is the conference record. In this scenario the dolphins would be a game better, 7-5 against 6-6. So the Browns would be left out again.

3. Browns and Ravens lose; Win dolphins, stallions and titans

This would tie the Browns and Ravens at 10-6 while the Dolphins, Colts, and Titans would all get in at 11-5. But Baltimore swept Cleveland, giving him the head-to-head tiebreaker. This scenario doesn’t work for the Browns either.

4. Lose Browns, Dolphins, Ravens, and Titans; Win Colts

This would put the Colts 11-5 as AFC South champions, while the Browns would be in a four-way relationship 10-6 against the Dolphins, Ravens, Titans. Since not all teams played against each other, the conference record is the first tiebreaker. The titans (7-5) and dolphins (7-5) would be ahead of the ravens (6-6) and browns (6-6) in this scenario.

The Titans would have the Common Games tiebreaker over the dolphins to move up to 5th place while the Dolphins settle for 6th place. Then again it comes down to the Ravens having the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Browns to earn # 7.

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