For the first 11 weeks of the season, the AFC North was completely dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, with the loss to the Washington Football Team during Week 14, they have not been the same team since.
While the Steelers have been struggling, the Browns have been winning games. They have won five of the last six games and are possibly two wins away from being crowned division champions for the first time in 31 years.
With the Steelers’ loss on Monday Night against the Bengals, the Browns chances of winning the AFC North shot up to 27 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Since the Steelers beat the Browns last time and the Steelers hold a better division record, there is only one scenario left that can give the Browns the AFC North crown.
The Browns Must Beat the Jets
It may sound easy, but the Jets made the Rams’ players struggle as they finally got their first win of the season against a potential playoff team. However, Baker Mayfield has been on a roll for the last couple of games. For the last four games, Mayfield has totaled 99 completions, 1,234 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes.
The Browns’ offense struggled in the beginning of the game against the Giants, only getting their first touchdown until the second quarter of the game. However, its defense was able to hold off the Giants to only two field goals. Granted, the Giants were playing without starting quarterback Daniel Jones and had lost two coaches in a span of a week. The Browns performance could have been better, however all season the Browns have managed to get wins, no matter how ugly the wins have been.
The Jets on the other hand are already preparing for next season. Though it was a relief for Jets fans to finally see their team get a win on the season, it may have jeopardized their chances for a first-round draft pick as the Jaguars now currently hold that first-round draft pick. The Browns should not have problem beating the Jets, but it may not be an easy win, as the Jets victory has given the team momentum to finish the season strong.
The Steelers Must Lose to the Colts
The Colts are another team that has been hot for the last couple of weeks. They have won five of the last six games and are also fighting for a division crown with the Tennessee Titans. They also must win their next two games if they want a chance to win the AFC South.
The Colts are going to come into this game with everything they got. Their defensive line has been great all year. They are seventh in yards per game allowed and sixth in defensive stats in the league. They have done a superb job cutting the running lanes and preventing rushing yards, according to NFL.com.
The Steelers, however, have the best defense in the NFL. The main reason for their 11-game winning streak has been their defense. They are second in points allowed per game in 18.9 and second in total yards per game in 297.9. They also rank the top three in takeaways and sacks per game, according to NFL.com. Linebacker T.J Watt has been the MVP for the Steelers’ defense this season. A three-time pro bowler, Watt has totaled 50 total tackles and 13 sacks.
The Colts will have a difficult time on Sunday trying to penetrate through the Steelers’ defense. Quarterback Phillip Rivers really will have to rely on rookie Jonathan Taylor to gain the Colts yardage to get into the red zone and try to get some points on the board. The Steelers will also need to make sure both wide receivers Claypool and Juju have good performances after disappointing last couple of games. It will be a very close match-up for both teams, as they are playing with the best defenses in the league with the division titles on the line.
The Browns Must Beat the Steelers During Week 17
If both the Browns and the Steelers have an 11-4 record after Week 16, the division will be decided in Cleveland. It will need to be a must need win for the Browns if they want to achieve the division title.
The last time these two teams met was back in Week 6 in Pittsburgh. The Steelers completely embarrassed the Browns with a 38-7 win. Mayfield was benched for Chase Keenum after only completing 10 passes for 119 yards. The Steelers ran through the Browns defense, with three of its touchdowns being rushing touchdowns. Since that game, the Browns have been a different team. The offense improved, Mayfield regained his confidence, and the defense has been more reliable.
The odds of the Browns winning are slightly against them. The Steelers have not lost five games in a row since 2009. Considering the Steelers started the season 11-0, the Browns will have to do the impossible to pull off this victory over the Steelers.
Is There a Chance That the Browns Can Miss the Playoffs?
The Browns have not secured a spot in the playoffs yet. If they lose the last two games, the other teams in the Wild Card hunt would have the chance to take the last three spots and leave the Browns out. However, if they beat the Jets and the Steelers beat the Colts, the Browns will have to win against the Steelers to get the AFC second seed, or if they lose, they may miss out on the playoffs overall.