CLEVELAND — The Browns and Steelers are squaring off on the last Sunday of the NFL regular season with a playoff spot at stake for Cleveland.
Let that sink in for a moment.
To all you Browns fans, congratulations on a fine season and here’s hoping you get that long-awaited, much agonized over, playoff run. My New Year’s wish for you is that your club continues to enjoy success for many years to come — except when they play my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The last time the NFL franchise based in Cleveland suited up for a postseason game was in 2002, during the Butch Davis regime, and that edition of the Browns dropped a 36-33 decision to Pittsburgh in the wild card round.
The Steelers lead the all-time series 77-59 with one tie (a 21-21 result in 2018). But Cleveland enjoys a 38-28 edge against Pittsburgh at home. And the faithful wearing orange and brown this weekend hope the friendly confines of home will produce a win for the Browns.
Pittsburgh won the first game against Cleveland this season, 38-7, but this Browns team has grown and matured since they last met on Oct. 18 at Heinz Field. That setback derailed a four-game winning streak for Cleveland. Since then, the Browns have gone 6-3.
Heading into the NFL’s version of decision day this Sunday, defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City (14-1) has already locked up the top seed in the AFC. Newly-crowned AFC East champ Buffalo (12-3) is the number two seed and Pittsburgh (12-3) is at number three.
Cleveland (10-5) is sitting in the seventh and final playoff slot in the AFC.
Ahead of the Browns are South Division leader Tennessee (10-5) in the fourth slot; Miami (10-5) at number five; and Baltimore (10-5) in the sixth position. Indianapolis (10-5) is still in contention, but on the outside looking in at number eight.
The formula for Cleveland is simple: win and you’re in.
However, in case you were wondering, should the Browns lose to the Steelers, the scenario gets a wee bit complicated. Here’s what it would take for Cleveland if they don’t handle their business:
• Colts loss OR
• Titans loss + Dolphins win or tie + Ravens win or tie OR
• Browns tie + Ravens loss OR
• Browns tie + Dolphins loss OR
• Browns tie + Titans loss OR
• Browns tie + Colts tie OR
• Browns tie + Titans tie + Ravens win + Dolphins win
Got it? Great.
Checking the schedule
The Browns and Steelers kick off at 1 p.m. Other early match-ups include Baltimore at Cincinnati and Miami at Buffalo. The Tennessee-Houston and Indy-Jacksonville games kick off at 4:25 p.m.
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