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Browns' path back to playoffs goes through the AFC North

The Browns will have to win their last two games for them to maintain any chance of cracking the playoffs

The Browns are officially in win-out mode.

That's the first thing to know about Cleveland's most likely playoff-clinching scenario for this season — the Browns will only have a chance to crack the postseason by winning Monday against the Steelers and winning again in Week 18 against the Bengals.

But outside of the two wins, the Browns (7-8) need a few other games to go their way to make the playoffs, which likely will only happen by winning the AFC North. The division is the only one left in the league where every team is still in contention to win the divisional title.

Beyond beating the Steelers (7-7-1) and Bengals (9-6) to finish the season, the Browns also will need the Chiefs to defeat the Bengals in Week 17. That game takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium, so there will be plenty of reason for Browns fans to watch.

They also need the Ravens to lose one of their last two games, both at home, against the Rams or Steelers. The Rams are 11-4 and hold the No. 3 seed in the NFC, and the Steelers will be playing the Ravens on a short week following the Monday night game against Cleveland.

If all of those games go the Browns way, they would finish 9-8, own the same record as the Bengals and win the tiebreaker because of their season sweep. If the Browns, Bengals and Ravens all finish 9-8, the Browns would still win the tiebreaker because they went 3-1 against the Bengals and Ravens. The Bengals would be 2-2, and the Ravens would be 1-3.

That's the most simple way for the Browns to make the playoffs, but they also have one highly unlikely shot of clinching a berth via Wild Card. The odds of that happening are less than 1 percent, according to The New York Times’ interactive playoff simulator, and involve a combination of results from at least 10 of the remaining 32 games on the NFL calendar.

So for now, we'll keep it simple — the Browns' best path to the playoffs is by winning the division.

And that requires winning the remaining two games of the regular season before anything else.

Check out exclusive photos from the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus of the Browns preparing for their Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers

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