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It’s been 18 years since the Cleveland Browns last saw the NFL playoffs, the longest drought in the league, but Baker Mayfield & Co. had a golden opportunity to secure a postseason berth on Sunday against the New York Jets and simply couldn’t get it done.

Yes, the Browns were shorthanded and on the road. But after nearly two decades of disappointment, all they had to do to get into the postseason was beat a one-win team and they couldn’t do it.

However, all hope isn’t lost for the Cleveland Browns as they still control their own destiny heading into their final game of the 2020 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But even if the Browns do lose in Week 17, there’s still a chance for them to sneak into the playoffs.

When was the last time the Cleveland Browns made the NFL playoffs?

So when was the last time the Cleveland Browns made the NFL playoffs? That would be the postseason following the 2002 campaign, which was the fourth season following the reactivation of the franchise and the second season with Butch Davis as the head coach. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch was still the quarterback then and he helped the Browns to a 9-7 record and a second-place finish in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished 10-5-1. With Pittsburgh as the No. 3 seed and Cleveland sneaking in at No. 6, the division rivals matched up in the wild-card round with the Steelers coming out on top, 36-33.

Since then, the Cleveland Browns have had just two winning seasons, the 2007 season in which they went 10-6 but still missed out on the postseason and this 2020 campaign in which 10 wins might again not be enough.

They had a chance to get into the postseason with a win over the Jets and blew it

Coming into Week 16, the Cleveland Browns needed some outside assistance to help secure a postseason berth. Everyone just assumed so they would beat the 1-13 New York Jets so they just needed the Ravens, Dolphins, or Colts to lose. Baltimore and Miami didn’t cooperate but the door swung open for the Browns when the Colts blew a big lead to the Steelers. And Cleveland simply couldn’t walk through it.

Without seven players due to COVID-19 issues, including their top four wide receivers, the Browns got down 20-3 but still had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But a costly Baker Mayfield fumble with less than two minutes to play, his third of the game, killed the Browns’ chances.

How can the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?

Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

So how exactly can the Cleveland Browns make the playoffs?

Well, the first scenario is quite simple. Just win. If the Browns can win at home in Week 17 against the Steelers, who might be resting players, they’re in. But even if Cleveland loses, there are still ways for them to reach the postseason. They’ll just need some help.

In the first scenario, they would need the Indianapolis Colts to lose to the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, which doesn’t seem likely at this point. However, if there’s any saving grace here, it’s the fact that the Jags’ only win of the year came against the Colts in Week 1.

In the second scenario, the Browns would have to rely on the outcomes of three games. The Tennessee Titans would have to lose to the Houston Texans, the Miami Dolphins would have to beat the Buffalo Bills, and the Baltimore Ravens would have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

That creates a scenario in which the Dolphins, Ravens, and Colts would all be 11-5. Indianapolis would win the AFC South and the Dolphins and Ravens would claim two of the three wild-card spots. The Browns and Titans would then both be 10-6 and Cleveland would win the tiebreaker due to their head-to-head victory over Tennessee in Week 13.

If by chance the Browns and Steelers tie, Cleveland would need one of the following things to happen:

  • Indianapolis loses to or ties Jacksonville
  • Miami loses to Buffalo
  • Baltimore loses to Cincinnati
  • Tennessee loses to Houston
  • Tennessee ties Houston, Miami defeats Buffalo, Baltimore defeats Cincinnati

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