The Browns' odds to make the playoffs are as steep as they get.
They're still not mathematically eliminated from doing so, but they need to win out, see the Dolphins lose a game and see the Colts and Titans lose this week and then tie next week. As poetic as that last part would be, the totality of that scenario is unlikely.
The Browns aren't fazed by this reality. They know their chances are slim, but they've developed too much positive momentum to let outside factors influence their drive to win. So leading up to this week's matchup with Cincinnati, they're just as inspired to win.
"It's an AFC North rivalry," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "Especially how things went up there last (time), we definitely want to let them know that it wasn't just a fluke. This is what it's going to be."
The Browns' 35-20 thumping of Cincinnati was their most impressive win during this recent stretch. Back then, though, their playoff dreams were easier to keep alive. Chaos had more time to infect the rest of the AFC Wild-Card contenders.
Now the carrot they've been chasing seems out of reach. They've won four out of five, sure, but they're running out of tangible goals to play for. Wins will bring hard-to-quantify entities like good vibes and momentum heading into next season.
The Browns don't care, though. For the first time in a long time, the Browns aren't concerned with their draft position heading into Week 16. That's what's made this stretch of wins special, and that's why coach Gregg Williams has no concerns about his players' motivations.
"If I have to worry about (motivation), we have the wrong people," Williams said. "We are inside of the white lines; let's roll. If (motivation) becomes a factor, the most important thing that I have to do is recommend to the people upstairs that guy does not belong."
Williams approaches every day like it's a job interview; he tells his players to do the same. So maybe the Browns aren't going to the playoffs. Maybe their resurgence under Williams won't affect the larger NFL picture. But it'll mean something to themselves, and that's all they care about.
"Having a winning record, that's something we can control," Peppers said. "That's my main focus. If (making the playoffs) happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it gives us good stepping stools to go into next year."