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Browns playoff hopes end day before game against Steelers

Cleveland mathematically eliminated
Posted at 7:00 PM, Jan 02, 2022

CLEVELAND — Things looked as promising as they could given the situation the Cleveland Browns put themselves heading into the final stretch of the season as they had their sights set on the playoffs. But fortune did not favor the Browns on Sunday and the scenarios that would have kept them in control of their own destiny didn't all work out.

On Sunday for the Browns to have a chance to win the AFC North title, the Baltimore Ravens needed to lose to the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals needed to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. Both scenarios seemed realistic.

But while the Rams were able to rally and take a late game lead to beat the Ravens 20-19, the Bengals, led by Joe Burrow and his rookie weapon Ja'Marr Chase, outlasted the Chiefs and won 34-31 on a 20-yard field goal as the seconds drained off the clock.

The Bengals were the game that absolutely needed to go the right way for the Browns. Winning saw Cincinnati clinch the AFC North title. Had they lost and the Ravens won, the Browns could have still won the division by winning out followed by a Steelers win over Baltimore in Week 18.

Unfortunately, the easiest path to the playoffs was taken away with the Bengals game-winning field goal—an extra sting as the Browns have dealt with serious kicking woes this season.

Things weren't quite over for the Browns after those games though. There was still a scenario that saw the Browns earn a Wild Card playoff spot if, and only if, they won out this season. For that to happen, a lot of other things also needed to occur.

It was a big ask for the Denver Broncos to beat the Los Angeles Chargers, and the expectation came to fruition with the Chargers taking down the Broncos and ending the Browns playoff hopes officially, 34-13.

The Browns have two more games to play, but who takes the field now that the playoffs are officially out of the equation, remains to be seen. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been dealing with a shoulder injury all season, Myles Garrett has been playing through a groin injury and Kareem Hunt was ramping up to return from an ankle injury, among other injuries starters have worked through this season. Those players could just be rested to prevent injuries in the remaining two games.

This season saw the offense become stagnant and stale, the defense struggle but eventually come into their own after adding a slew of new pieces during the offseason and the special teams unit try to figure itself out game in and game out. It was not the season anyone expected after the way the Browns played in 2020. And now, unfortunately, it's back to the old saying: There's always next year.

Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.

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