It’s possible that the Browns can make the playoffs without beating the Steelers next week, but Cleveland needs exceptional luck with a loss.
The Browns had a golden opportunity to punch their playoff ticket with a win over the Jets in Week 16.
Instead, Cleveland suffered a shocking defeat to a team with absolutely nothing to play for. That will make life much more difficult for Baker Mayfield and his teammates heading into Week 17.
The simplest way for the Browns to ensure a postseason berth is to defeat the Steelers. That victory alone would help Cleveland end its lengthy playoff drought. Failing to defeat their arch-rivals makes finding a path to the playoffs much more difficult.
A Colts loss on the final weekend of the regular season would do the trick, but Indianapolis faces the Jaguars on Sunday. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Frank Reich’s team drops a meaningful game to the worst team in the NFL.
The Browns could also back their way in if the Titans lose both of their remaining games. Tennessee takes on the Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 16 before finishing off their regular season at Houston. The Texans will have nothing other than pride to play for in their season finale.
Simple logic makes Cleveland’s Week 17 game against the Steelers a must-win for a franchise that desperately wants to avoid suffering from a late-season swoon that costs them a postseason berth. Browns fans will face a nervous wait until learning their team’s playoff fate.