The Cleveland Browns' season, once another part of their annually recurring nightmare, has taken a turn for the better, with the Browns winning two out of their last three games and moving to 4-6-1, potentially even challenging the over of their preseason win total of 5.5.
Tons of credit should go to Gregg Williams, the interim coach who has instilled some discipline in the wake of Hue Jackson being fired. (Although credit Hue for taking a job with the Bengals and inspiring the Browns last week against Cincy.)
Things may have gotten out of hand, however, as the Browns are apparently going full Jim Mora and talking about the PLAYOFFS.
According to an Associated Press story from Tom Withers, Cleveland is actually eying the possibility of making a postseason run, while also understanding they are a pretty big long shot to make it.
Withers writes that Williams "had been reluctant" to even mention the playoffs to his players, but ahead of Week 12 he "used the postseason prize as a motivator to reinforce a bigger message: The Browns can make this season special."
Center J.C. Tretter admitted the team is at least having the thoughts roll around in their collective head, but that it takes a rigorous discipline to focus on each game a time, with five remaining on the schedule. And if they do that, January and -- GASP -- February could be in play.
"You are starting to see a team that everybody in this building knew was here," Tretter said. "We do understand that if we do take it one game at a time and everything goes our way, there is an opportunity to keep playing football games into January and into February, but that is something that we can't look too far ahead on right now."
So can the Browns make the playoffs? The short answer is "yes." SportsLine's projections give the Browns a 2.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. We're firmly in "so you're telling me there's a chance" territory. For simplicity's sake, if the Browns win out (watch them take on the Texans at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on CBS, stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free), they would have an 85 percent chance of making the playoffs according to the Upshot simulator.
At 9-6-1, they wouldn't be guaranteed anything, but could get in with some help. Namely, they would need the Chargers to lose four of five games down the stretch or for the Ravens to seriously falter from their 6-5 perch. The Colts also need to lose some games.
Cleveland could actually finish out 3-1 and end up at 8-7-1 and still somehow make the playoffs. A loss to the Panthers in two weeks coupled with winning their four other games would open up a shot at them making the playoffs -- remember the Ravens and Chargers play each other, so someone in the wild card race is guaranteed a loss there.
Here's a crazy idea: the Browns could actually be the No. 6 seed by as early as the end of Week 14 if a few things break their way:
- Cleveland wins at Houston, vs. Carolina
- Baltimore loses at Atlanta, at Kansas City
- Los Angeles loses at Pittsburgh, wins vs. Cincinnati
- Indianapolis loses at Jacksonville AND at Houston
- Denver loses EITHER at Cincinnati or at San Francisco
- Miami loses EITHER vs. Buffalo or vs. New England
- Tennessee loses EITHER vs. New York Jets or vs. Jacksonville
If all of that happens, the Browns would be 6-6-1 and the sixth seed going into Week 15. It would almost be too much to bear. And ultimately the Browns are fighting an uphill battle.
But there's no reason not to believe -- five wins is viable the way this team is playing on both sides of the ball right now. It starts this week with the Texans, and it might well end this week with Houston too, but taking down a likely No. 3 or No. 4 seed would put the Browns in good position to actually contemplate a run.
Listen to Brady Quinn and Will Brinson discuss the Browns and much more on the Pick Six Podcast: