Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A sporting chance

Now that the Browns have defeated a bona fide playoff-quality team and stand 5-3 with only one remaining opponent currently sporting a winning record, it is time for fans to talk playoffs. (Players are advised to focus on the next task at hand, which happens to be a weighty one.)

Last weekend featured not only a spectacular comeback win by the Browns, but also plenty of "help" in terms of losses by potential wild-card competitors, a field that doesn't seem all that mighty.

Jacksonville was 5-2 but lost to the Saints. Baltimore, San Diego, and Kansas City all fell to .500. Denver, two weeks after beating Pittsburgh, got mauled by the Lions, 44-7 and stands just 3-5.

If the season ended today, the Browns would miss grabbing the second wild-card slot because they're one-half game behind the Jaguars against conference foes. But the Jags face only two more opponents who currently have losing records. On Sunday, they face division rival Tennessee, standing tall at 6-2, good enough for the first wild-card berth.

Before last weekend's games, Football Outsiders gave the Browns a 27.6% chance of making the playoffs, a figure sure to rise substantially this week.

Of course, the best path to the playoffs is the one you clear yourself. Winning takes care of a lot of things. An upset at Pittsburgh would be a tremendous boon, no doubt. But even if the Browns, dare I say it, lose to the Steelers and even the Ravens the following week, they still will have a decent shot at the post-season if their confidence and health are not destroyed in the process.

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