COMMENTARY | I know you're hurting, Cleveland Browns fans. I feel your pain following the team's lackluster performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. The AFC North title seems like a lost cause for the Browns. All of that optimism that the franchise and Cleveland football fans felt heading into the Bye week died a death on Sunday.
Don't despair just yet, Browns followers. The fact is that Cleveland is just one game out of the playoff hunt after the team's latest defeat. Some are speculating that 8-8 may be enough to earn the final Wild Card spot in the AFC.
I'm not sure being .500 will even be necessary.
AFC Wild Card race: "The best"
The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins lead the pack of mediocre AFC teams at 5-5. When bad, as they were when getting trounced by the Buffalo Bills yesterday, the Jets are absolutely awful, the worst team in the division. You're in denial if you don't think the Jets can't put up a stinker at home when they host the Browns on December 22.
The Dolphins obviously have off-the-field concerns. It's possible that Miami could unite under the "us against the world" banner. I also think that the Chargers were awful in Miami yesterday, and thus I'm not sold on a 'Phins revival.
AFC Wild Card race: Four wins
The Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills join Cleveland in the four-win club. The Raiders could be on the verge of a quarterback controversy, never a good sign for a team at this stage of the season. Neither the Titans nor the Bills have a playoff QB. Joe Flacco is failing the Ravens, and the Chargers are not a .500 team.
Some are claiming that the Steelers are "back" after two straight wins. Pittsburgh beat what was a lousy Buffalo team at home on November 10. The Detroit Lions gifted the Steelers a win yesterday. Big whoop.
AFC Wild Card race: Cleveland's schedule
This is a subject I touched upon last week. Cleveland has the goods to sweep the below-average Steelers. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the worst team in pro football. You can't trust the Chicago Bears or the Jets on a weekly basis. Only the game at the New England Patriots seems like a sure loss for the Browns.
8-8 and even 9-7 remain attainable goals for the Browns. Either of those marks could be good enough for a postseason berth. Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski needs to hammer that point home to his roster. The Browns still have plenty of life, but that won't be the case if they implode at home against the Steelers this coming Sunday.
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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