Heading into this year, a large number of NFL experts pegged the Cleveland Browns as the worst team in the NFL. Not a single one of those pundits will admit to that prediction anymore. As a matter of fact, instead of being placed at #32 in the NFL, a lot of those same experts have the Browns in the top 10.
Now the Browns have an excellent chance to prove their worth, as they now control their path to the playoffs.
Earlier tonight, the Denver Broncos fell to the Houston Texans, clearing the path for the Browns to get into the postseason for only the second time since the team returned to Cleveland.
Currently the North Coast boys own sole possession of sixth place in the AFC, enough to gain the coveted final wild-card spot. The four division leaders....New England (13-0), Indianapolis (11-2), Pittsburgh (9-4), and San Diego (8-5) .....and Jacksonville (9-4) all sit ahead of us. We're right behind at 8-5.
Two wins in their final three games will get Cleveland in, but one of those wins must come this Sunday at home against Buffalo (7-6). Beating the Bills will eliminate Buffalo, and will put Denver (7-7) out of the playoffs at the same time. A win on Sunday against Buffalo will keep us one game ahead of Tennessee with two to play, and Cleveland holds the tiebreaker.
Even better, a win against the Bills, and a Tennessee loss to Kansas City on Sunday afternoon will clinch the wild-card spot immediately.
It's a little muddied, but it is right in front of us. However, if you're not into the whole "if this happens and that happens and this happens" scenarios, just look at it this way. If the Browns win, they're in. Nobody else can stop us as long as we keep winning.
But if you want to look ahead a little bit, how about this....Pittsburgh is reeling from their curbstomping at the hands of New England last week, and they face off against Jacksonville this week. Then it's a road game against a pretty bad St. Louis team before finishing up on the road against Baltimore.
If Pittsburgh manages to lose two of their last three games, and the Browns win all three of their contests (7-6 Buffalo, 5-8 Cincinnati, and 3-10 San Francisco), Cleveland is the champion of the AFC North.
It's not favorable for Browns fans, but St. Louis has re-emerged from their 0-7 start to win 3 out of their last 5.....and if you think Baltimore isn't licking their chops at the chance to fuck up the Steelers' division hopes, you'd better call a shrink.
It probably won't happen, but I'm still looking at it as a possibility. And I still am the guy who said Ohio State would go from #7 to the BCS Championship Game hours after we lost to Illinois.
As for that Buffalo Bills game, don't let their 7-6 record get you too worried. They're not a very good team.
Their wins? Baltimore (4-9), Cincinnati (5-8), Washington (6-7), NY Jets (3-10), NY Jets (3-10), Miami (0-13), and Miami (0-13).
They've only had a 100-yard rusher 3 times all year and two of those came last week....against Miami.
Their QB has thrown for LESS than 200 yards in 9 of their 13 games. Twice, the leading QB threw for LESS than 100 yards. By the way, of the four times they had more than 200 passing yards...once was against Miami, another against the Jets.
Yeah, I'm not impressed either.
However, they're hungry. But hell, so are we. The team cannot underestimate them, and I certainly hope we don't overlook them like I just did.