COMMENTARY | Save your played out Jim Mora jokes. A playoff spot is there for the taking for the 2013 Cleveland Browns. Critics can analyze what Cleveland losing Brian Hoyer for the season and thus Brandon Weeden being given charge of the offense once again means for the team's immediate future. The Browns have the best defense in the AFC North, and that alone gives Cleveland a chance to win every weekend.
How the 2013 Cleveland Browns can make the playoffs: Survive to the Bye
October 13 to November 3 is Cleveland's toughest stretch of the campaign, a month that could break the team's spirit and its season if things go terribly wrong. A home game versus the Detroit Lions, road contests against the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, and hosting the Baltimore Ravens would test any team let alone one that just lost the quarterback who had injected some sorely need life into its offense.
The Browns don't need to win three or even two of those games to still be in the postseason discussion when the off week arrives. Cleveland picking up a single victory over their next four would have the Browns at 4-5. Remembering where the team was after Week 2 and also looking ahead at Cleveland's schedule, 4-5 wouldn't be all that bad.
How the 2013 Cleveland Browns can make the playoffs: Flip the rivalry
It was but a month ago that Cleveland sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been possible only in Browns fantasy land. That's no longer the case. The Steelers are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and things are bound to get worse as injuries, fatigue and the realization that their playoff hopes died a death before October all set in.
Even a single loss to the Steelers could be the result that keeps Cleveland out of the playoffs. Chances are that the Browns won't be playing in January unless they win the division. In my most pessimistic scenario, two victories over Pittsburgh would guarantee Cleveland at least a total of six wins. That's a start.
How the 2013 Cleveland Browns can make the playoffs: Upsets
Cleveland's road to the playoffs, if one exists, will have to include the team beating a handful of opponents that are, on paper, better. Of their final eleven regular season opponents, only Pittsburgh and the Jacksonville Jaguars currently have losing records. The Browns beating just those teams isn't going to cut it.
So where will the other wins come from? Cleveland defeating Detroit and Baltimore at home isn't unrealistic. The Lions could be without Calvin Johnson when they face off with the Browns on October 13, and Cleveland gave the Ravens a scare when those two sides met in Baltimore last month.
The Browns will have an extra week to prepare for a road contest at the Cincinnati Bengals that will take place on November 17. Back to back games against the New York Jets (away) and the Chicago Bears (home) in December are both seemingly winnable affairs. Chicago has stumbled as of late, and there are some signs that the team's foundation could be crumbling. I'm not at all convinced that the Jets, also at 3-2, are for real.
All indications are that no team is running away with the AFC North. The division's top three contenders are going to beat up on each other some more, and Pittsburgh isn't going 0-16. 9-7 could very well be good enough to make the postseason. Cleveland has to find six more wins between now and the end of the year.
The Browns won't deserve to be in the playoffs if they cannot do at least that.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010
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