A few weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns looked like a lock to make the playoffs, and maybe even win the division with the Pittsburgh Steelers reeling. That is no longer the case, with today's upset loss to the New York Jets.
The Browns were put in a very precarious position entering the game. On Saturday, we learned that the team would be without most of its receiving corps, due to contact tracing, including Baker Mayfield's top target Jarvis Landry. Jamarcus Bradley (five receptions, 60 yards), and Marvin Hall (1/12) were the only players listed as wide receivers to catch passes from Baker Mayfield today.
Any team would have a tough time winning in that situation, even against a team as woeful as these Jets. Against the wishes of most fans of the team, Adam Gase has the team playing hard down the stretch. Today's win knocks them out of contention for the No. 1 pick, with the Jacksonville Jaguars' loss to the Chicago Bears.
Still, it doesn't really remove the sting of the loss. Now, Cleveland needs to beat the Steelers, or have to rely on a string of very unrealistic Week 17 scenarios, including the Indianapolis Colts losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's tough out there for Browns fans today.
The good news for Cleveland is that if they win next week, they should be in. Today's comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts aside, the Steelers—Cleveland's Week 17 opponent—has looked as shaky as can be over the last month, including losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Football Team.
If the Cleveland Browns can get their playmakers back on the field, dial up the running game, and get the efficient football that Baker Mayfield has played over most of the second half this year, a playoff berth is there for the taking.
That doesn't mean this isn't a terrifying situation for them to be in, given the history of the franchise.