The Cleveland Browns have watched their playoff odds decline over each of the past two weeks, and the struggles that have resulted in that regression aren’t going unnoticed around the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons took to the airwaves during the Tuesday, December 5 edition of “The Edge with Micah Parsons” podcast and contended that the Indianapolis Colts are a playoff sleeper in the AFC. He made his argument in the context of the Browns’ recent struggles, both with injuries and back-to-back double-digit losses to the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams.
This is a team that people might be worried about come playoff time. They might have to worry about the Colts. Especially with the Browns’ injuries and the big loss they had. I don’t know how long Amari Cooper is out and things like that. The Browns are still a really good team, but we don’t know how that’s gonna turn out. Let’s see how they battle this adversity.
We don’t know how the AFC is gonna turn out. A lot of teams are 9-3, 8-4 and 7-5. … A lot of teams been taking a lot of upsets. This is going to be a very spicy side. Very spicy.
Browns’ Injuries Continue to Pile Up at Exactly the Wrong Time
Cooper’s injuries are racking up in recent weeks, as are the health issues across the entire Browns roster.
Cooper suffered a rib injury against the Broncos that knocked him out of the game, though he was able to fight through the pain to be on the field in LA Sunday. During the second quarter, QB Joe Flacco threw the ball Cooper’s way as two Rams defenders converged on the wide receiver. Cooper left the field following the high-impact collision with a head injury and did not return. The team later confirmed he had suffered a concussion.
Flacco was only in the game in the first place due to a concussion suffered by rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in Denver the week before. He sat out against the Rams, as did cornerback Denzel Ward who is dealing with a lingering shoulder issue. Defensive end Myles Garrett played through a sore shoulder of his own in Los Angeles, but at day’s end found himself shut out in the major pass-rushing categories.
Browns Still On Track to Make Playoffs After 2 Straight Losses
Despite all the poor injury luck, some dominoes are falling Cleveland’s way in the AFC Wildcard race.
If the postseason began this weekend, the Browns would be the No. 7 seed and would travel to face the Baltimore Ravens. The Houston Texans (7-5) are right on their heels in the No. 8 spot, while the Broncos (6-6) occupy the ninth position and hold the tiebreaker over Cleveland due to the head-to-head matchup. The Colts (7-5), to Parsons’ point, are slated in at No. 6 while the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) are currently fifth in the AFC.
Despite how crowded the wildcard race is and how much the Browns have hurt themselves with two consecutive losses, ESPN’s Football Power Index still projects Cleveland to win 10 games and gives the team a 66.2% chance of making the playoffs as of Tuesday. That is mostly due to the schedule.
The Browns play the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) next week, the AFC South Division leaders and current No. 4 seed. However, quarterback Trevor Lawrence suffered a high ankle sprain against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football and may not be available to play in Cleveland on December 10. The news shifted the odds for next week’s matchup, as the Browns are now 3-point favorites to win the game, per Draft Kings Sportsbook.
After the Jaguars, the only team with legitimate playoff aspirations Cleveland has to play is the Texans. That game will be played in Houston on Christmas Eve. The Browns’ three other contests to finish out the season are against the Chicago Bears (4-8), New York Jets (4-8) and the Bengals (6-6) who will be without QB Joe Burrow for the remainder of the season.