There can be only one team on the outside looking in. These two teams make a pretty good case.
Eight teams will fight for six spots come Week 17 in both conferences. And no, every team in the NFC East should be rooting to lose for the sheer fact of having a higher draft pick.
Arizona’s struggles of late show they’re a year away from contending. Los Angeles might need to move on from Jared Goff as the defense proves to be top-notched under Brandon Staley. Chicago started 5-1, lost six straight and now have won three behind the likes of Mitchell Trubisky.
But really, should he be the long-term answer under center? An exit out of the playoffs will answer that question.
All five AFC rosters will finish with winning records, in fact, double-digit victories on the year. COVID-19 and poor play midseason from Lamar Jackson at least is a viable excuse for the Baltimore Ravens. The Indianapolis Colts defense as of late has nearly cost the team three wins.
The Tennessee Titans have the worst third-down defense in the NFL and little to none in the pass-rushing department. The Miami Dolphins, though talented on defense and causing turnovers, still is a year away without a proper No. 2 option in the receiving game.
But the Cleveland Browns might have just been screwed out of the playoffs. That will be a tough pill to swallow.
The Browns concerns could pop their postseason bubble
Entering Sunday, the Browns had a 90 percent chance of making the postseason for the first time since 2002. It looked like an easy win against the New York Jets since they were trying to still tank.
Instead, four wide receivers were ruled out due to contact tracing with COVID-19. Without Jarvis Landry, Rashad Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, Baker Mayfield’s top receiver became Ja’Macrus Bradley.
A costly fumble in the fourth quarter had Browns fans calling for Mayfield’s head, but what else can you do but check down to tight ends and running backs? Mayfield’s average pass traveled only 5.3 yards, but that’s the average length for the positions available.
The run game was also held to 46 yards on the afternoon against a surprisingly decent Jets run unit. That forced Mayfield to throw 53 times on the afternoon. Yep, without any of his main receivers.
A fourth-down stop sealed a 23-16 loss, but it also put Cleveland’s playoff plans on life support. The Browns now must win against the Pittsburgh Steelers to guarantee their spot in the postseason for the first time in 18 years.
During those 18 long seasons, Browns fans have had enough. They’ve lived through a quarterback graveyard of busts. Their long lost of head coaching hires now burns in the fire of has-beens or once was. They’re one of only two teams in the modern era to go 0-16.
Now this? Because of close tracing, they’re out?
The Browns finally are good at football. They can sustain it for awhile even without a playoff appearance. However, for the sake of the drought, they have to win for their fans.
Dear Browns, please don’t Browns.