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Thursday, November 14, 2013
Should the 'P' word be used with Browns?

By Pat McManamon

There should be a law against discussing a team’s playoff chances when said teams have more losses than wins.

Then again, there’s a lot of laws that should be enacted. And the Cleveland Browns welcome any mention of playoffs after years of being inept. A compelling case that their hopes are legit is made here by ESPN’s metrics guru K.C. Joyner in the Insiders section.

But those who have watched the Browns win 23 games the past five years are in Missouri on this possibility: The Browns have to show them.

Cleveland’s chances remain long, but they remain legit enough to justify discussion.

Sort of.

Even if the Browns lose in Cincinnati on Sunday, their next two games are at home against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. That's favorable for a 6-6 record, which would be 7-5 if they can find a way to beat the Bengals.

The Browns are not a classic playoff team by any means. They’re patched up like Raggedy Andy’s jeans.

But they have two things in their favor: Schedule and the fact they play in the AFC North.

The schedule includes games at Cincinnati and New England and at home against Chicago, but it also includes Jacksonville (1-8), the Jets (5-4) and two against Pittsburgh (3-6).

If 9-7 makes the playoffs -- a reasonable assumption -- the Browns would have to win five of seven, or five of six if they lose Sunday in Cincinnati.

The wild card (no pun intended) in this is the woeful state of the AFC North. If Cleveland beats the Bengals, Cincinnati would be in first place with a 6-5 record. This weekend, Pittsburgh hostsDetroit, and Baltimore is at Chicago. The only victor among AFC North teams might be the winner of Browns-Bengals.

If it’s Cleveland, that raises the possibility of a division winner with an 8-8 record.

It’s not a completely absurd concept. In 2010, Seattle won the AFC West with a 7-9 record -- and hosted and won a playoff game.

Weird things happen in the NFL, and every year one or two teams come from nowhere to make the playoffs.

The Browns' chances are highly improbable. Baltimore would move to 5-5 with a win over the Bears, and an injury to Jason Campbell might eradicate any Browns hope.

But they’re not dead. And in some weird, quirky, Frankensteinian way ... playoff talk is not completely crazy.