The Steelers beat the Patriots 17-10 on Sunday to improve to 8-5-1, which prevents the Browns from winning the AFC North by virtue of the Steelers winning the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event they both finish 8-7-1.
Even if the Ravens finish 8-7-1 for a three-way tie, the Steelers still win the tiebreakers.
But the Browns (6-7-1) still have a sliver of a chance to sneak into the playoffs in the event of a three-way tie among them and the Colts and Titans at 8-7-1. According to ESPN Analytics, the Browns have a 1 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Here’s what has to happen, according to ESPN Stats and Info:
1. The Browns beat the Bengals and Ravens to finish 8-7-1.
2. The Ravens lose out to finish 8-8.
3. The Dolphins lose one of their final to games to finish 8-8.
4. Colts and Titans both lose Week 16 and then tie their head-to-head meeting in week 17 to finish 8-7-1
In that scenario, the Browns win the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts for the second wildcard spot based on their record vs. common opponents (Browns 3-2, Colts 2-3).
It’s highly unlikely, but the Browns aren’t dead just yet, thanks to their 17-16 come-from-behind victory over the Broncos, their fourth victory in their past five games.
Two former Browns players factored into the Steelers' victory: a red zone interception by Pittsburgh cornerback Joe Haden and a crucial drop by Patriots receiver Josh Gordon.
The Browns must now focus on beating the Bengals here on Sunday, and the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 30.
“Every week is playoff week,'' said Browns safety Jabrill Peppers after the Broncos game, in which he preserved the victory with a fourth-down sack of Broncos quarterback Case Keenum. "You can’t look too far ahead. That’s how you slip up. You look at every game as a playoff game. We can only control what we can control.
"We know some people have to lose, but we have no control over that. The only thing we can control is going out there and win every game. You’ve got Cincy and home, and you’ve got the Ravens on the road. Two AFC North games. You know I’m excited, man. Go down to Baltimore on the East Coast, play those guys down there, and then Cincy comes to us first. So those are playoff games right there, and if God blesses us, he blesses us. But if not, this is good stepping-stones for next year.”
Browns defensive back Damarious Randall takes great pride in the fact the Browns have won four of their last five.
“We’ve got guys in this locker room that went 0-16, so we take nothing for granted,'' Randall said after the Broncos game. "They’re my brothers, and we’re going to keep pushing forward ‘cause I felt like I went 0-16 last year, so I have a chip on my shoulder each and every week. For us to come here and to get this win, I don’t even know what our record is, but just know that we’re going to keep on winning, and that’s just what we’re looking forward to doing.'’