A gut check would say it's ridiculous, but the standings say the Browns really are in the middle of the wild-card standings. At this point, the Chiefs or Broncos seem assured of the first wild-card spot. But when it comes to the second, it's a mess. Seven teams are either 3-5, 4-5, 4-4 or 5-4. The Browns (4-5) are one of them.
This means, technically speaking, that the Browns truly are in the midst of the mess. There's a long way to go, but it's also been a long time since the Browns really and truly could talk wild card this late in the season and have it carry any meaning.
One assumes this shows “progress.”
The key game: The next one. No, it's not coach-speak. It's key because it's in Cincinnati against the Bengals. If the Ravens somehow realize they are a team and beat the Bengals this weekend in Baltimore, and if the Browns beat the Bengals (whom they've defeated once already this season) then the Bengals would be 6-5 and the Browns would be 5-5 with a game in Cleveland against Pittsburgh awaiting.
Dare the Browns' fans dream? Best not to, based on the way the team has responded to past dreams (remember that lead in Pittsburgh in the playoff game?). But ... the Browns are in the mess. Which is better than many of the other past messes.
The remaining schedule is not easy, and includes game at Cincinnati (6-3), at New England (7-2) and at the Jets (5-4). But it also includes games against Jacksonville (a woeful 0-8) and against the floundering Steelers (2-6) twice.
The combined won-lost record of the seven teams left on the schedule: 27-32 (.458).
There are a lot of ways to measure the difference in the Browns when Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell play and when Brandon Weeden plays. Start with won-lost, which is 4-1 in games Hoyer and Campbell started, 0-4 for Weeden. Of course Buffalo could be put in Weeden's ledger. So let's be kind and say he's 1-4 when he plays significant time. Still not exactly contract-extension worthy.
Another way to measure: Point differential. Go only with games started, and the point differential when Hoyer and Campbell start is plus-27 in four games. In the four games Weeden starts, it's minus-53.
Campbell is really an amazing study. For the longest time, the word was he didn't really want to play, he was happy as a backup. This sounded odd, and it was. Because it was not correct. Campbell wants to play so badly he fought through what could have been broken ribs against Baltimore. But talk to him and he is the most serene, placid person in the universe. Calm water should be his nickname. To what does he attribute his outward calm? Two things: His faith, and his upbringing when his parents told him the best way to act was consistently. So Campbell is consistently so serene he makes the monks on Mount Athos look like party animals. Whatever works.