Browns hanging on to slim playoff hopes but remain motivated to 'finish the right way' - News & Notes

The odds have never been steeper. 

Browns players know that, and it's a major reason why they're not really dwelling on it heading into their home finale Sunday against the AFC North champion Ravens.

Regardless, the motivation to play at their top level -- kind of like how they did months ago against the same Ravens -- trumps anything involving the postseason.

"We have to have a lot of help, but we are playing to get better," Browns QB Baker Mayfield said. "We have to. We are playing to finish this thing out the right way and the way the people that have worked so long for this season – it has been a long grueling season – but people around here deserve for us to finish the right way."

What needs to happen for the Browns to make the playoffs? It's pretty simple, but it's also a lot. 

On top of winning out, the Browns need the Steelers (at Jets, at Ravens) and Titans (vs. Saints, at Texans) to lose their final two games. Additionally, the Colts (vs. Panthers, at Jaguars) need to win their final two games. That would set up a four-way tie at 8-8 that would favor the Browns. A three-way tie without the Colts would not.

The Browns are most focused on the first part of that equation, knowing a loss Sunday puts an end to to their hopes before they even have a chance to check the scores from around the league.

"For now, we are focused on Baltimore," WR Odell Beckham Jr. said. "There is still an opportunity there as crazy as it is. A lot of things have to happen, we have to rely on X, Y and Z, but the only thing we can focus on is beating Baltimore and worry about whatever happens after."

-- The Browns were without offensive linemen JC Tretter and Kendall Lamm during Wednesday's practice. Both players are dealing with knee injuries.

DT Sheldon Richardson (back) was also sidelined.

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said Lamm's injury is different than the one that kept him out for the first half of the season. Tretter, meanwhile, has missed a number of practices over the past couple of weeks but hasn't missed any snaps in games.

DE Olivier Vernon, who has missed five of the past six games with a knee injury, was limited Wednesday.

"I think he is close. I do not know if he will get there or not," Kitchens said. "We will see at the end of the week."

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Ravens Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

-- Joel Bitonio said he still felt honored even though he didn't make the initial Pro Bowl roster.

Bitonio, who made the Pro Bowl last season and has been an alternate in the past, was named a first alternate Tuesday. If he's able to crack the roster, he'll join teammates Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry in Orlando for the league's annual all-star game.

Marshall Yanda (Ravens), David DeCastro (Steelers) and Quenton Nelson (Colts) were the picks at guard for the AFC.

"People are recognizing that you are a good player and there are other good players in this league. There are only three guards that can go in the AFC, and there are three good ones that made it," Bitonio said. "It is still an honor to get recognition, and I appreciate the people that voted for me. Hopefully we win more games this year and I think that is how you get a little bit more recognition when you win more games as a team and doing better as team. You saw the Ravens had 12 guys, and I am sure if they were .500, they would not have 12 guys. 

"It is one of those things where if you win more games, you get more recognition, but I do appreciate the people that voted and the respect I got for that."

-- Chubb said he was "excited" about making his first Pro Bowl but admitted he wasn't thinking too much about it because of the Browns' upcoming game.

"The goal is just to go out there and play my best," Chubb said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Mayfield called Chubb the Browns "silent assassin" while Kitchens called the second-year running back "one of the hardest workers we have."

"His success has shown on the field every week," Kitchens said. "It feels great for the guys to get recognized for their accomplishments."

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