Bills Victory in Dallas Further Complicates Browns Path to Wildcard

Pete Smith

When the Buffalo Bills defeated the Dallas Cowboys, it moved them to 9-3, putting them in a commanding lead to earn the first AFC wildcard berth. If they win one of their remaining four games, they have virtually guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs. No other team in the AFC, save for division leaders, has more than six wins. For the Cleveland Browns, currently at 5-6, it only complicates an already difficult path to the post season.

The Browns are fortunate in they have one of the easier schedules in the league with their remaining five games, but short of sweeping all five, they are going to need some help, especially if the Bills lock up the first wildcard.

It starts with beating the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. They sit at 6-5 and if the Browns fail to beat them, they'll be two games behind them with only four games remaining and the second game against the Baltimore Ravens becomes a must win affair. The Steelers are also the only wildcard contender left on their schedule, so it's their final opportunity to hand a competing team a loss.

The rest of their schedule is an opportunity to scoop up wins while the viable teams in the AFC South and West will have to battle amongst themselves to get there. As an example, the Tennessee Titans have to play the Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans twice. All of those teams are vying for a playoff spot and if they just beat each other, muddling the overall field, it would benefit the Browns if they keep winning.

Since the team found themselves at 2-6, they've been in a position where they have to win at least seven of their final eight games just to have a chance. Three straight wins and it's starting to look more possible. The Browns need a win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, which is easier said than done. If they accomplish that, not only does it mean their first sweep of the Steelers since 1988, it would mean clearing a massive hurdle between them and their first playoff berth since 2002.

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