Sports

The Cleveland Browns (Yes, Those Cleveland Browns) Can Still Make the Playoffs (Yes, Those Playoffs)

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 15:  Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns warms up as head coach Gregg Williams of the Cleveland Browns looks on before a game against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on December 15, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Head coach Gregg Williams and quarterback Baker Mayfield have Cleveland in unfamiliar territory.
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Soak it in, Cleveland fans. With two weeks left in the NFL regular season, you get to say the 13 sweetest words in the English language: “my favorite football team is not yet mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs.” The Browns beat the Denver Broncos 17-16 on Saturday, keeping hopes alive for a most unlikely postseason appearance.

Heading into Saturday’s game, FiveThirtyEight listed the Browns’ chances of making the playoffs at less than 1 percent. After the win, their probability skyrocketed to 2 percent. I don’t know too much about statistics, but I like those odds!

All the 6-7-1 Browns need to do in order to pull off a minor miracle is follow a simple, three-step plan:

1. Win all their remaining games.

2. Hope the Pittsburgh Steelers lose their next three games.

3. Hope the Baltimore Ravens lose one of their next two games (before losing to the Browns in the final week, which will happen if Cleveland follows step one.)

Steps four and five are implied (win Super Bowl; appear with Alec Baldwin in labored Saturday Night Live cold open where Trump hires the team to redecorate the Oval Office or something).

The pressure should be off. No matter what happens over the next two games, this was already a wildly successful season for the Browns. They’ve moonwalked over the lowest of low bars by accomplishing some truly incredible feats.

-First win since 2016.

-First win on a Sunday since 2015.

-First consecutive wins since 2014.

-Fired Hue Jackson.

Optimism reigns in Northern Ohio. The last quarterback to lead the team to a winning record was Derek Anderson (in 2007). The last quarterback to take them to the playoffs was Kelly Holcomb (in 2002). With all due respect to those intrepid pioneers, rookie Baker Mayfield is the most exciting player Cleveland has had since the days of the Kardiac Kids. Someone give this guy a charmingly misspelled nickname STAT.

Mayfield’s confidence and swagger have been contagious. Even the punter is getting cocky.

This team went 0-16 last season. A 2 percent chance of success is the surest bet they’ve seen in years.