CLEVELAND - In the hunt with three weeks to go seemed not just implausible but impossible after an 0-5 start. But the 2012 Browns are still in the playoff race clinging to that hope, as slim as it may be.
"We realize we're in a tough spot but we still have a chance. Crazy things have happened," Brandon Weeden said after Sunday's 30-7 victory over the Chiefs.
At 5-8, the Browns would need to handle their business and have a lot go their way, a perfect storm sort of scenario.
The Browns are currently the ninth best team in the AFC, two games out of the second AFC wild card held by the Steelers.
One more Browns' loss will automatically end their playoff hopes. Getting in with seven wins is not a possibility because the Steelers and Bengals are each 7-6 and play each other again, assuring one of reaching eight wins. Wins from both the Steelers and Bengals in Week 15 will knock the Browns out of contention, even if they beat the Redskins.
If the Steelers lose to Dallas or Cincinnati, it could set up a potential win-and-in scenario for Week 17, as the Browns would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with Pittsburgh by sweeping the season series. The Bengals can eliminate the Browns with two wins in their final three games.
Here are the Browns and their division counterparts' remaining schedules:
Browns: vs. WAS, at DEN, at PIT
Steelers: at DAL, vs. CIN, vs. CLE
Bengals: at PHI, at PIT, vs. BAL
In AFC North play, the Bengals are currently 1-3, Browns 2-3 and Steelers 2-2. If all three finish at 8-8, the Browns will emerge ahead as a result of the divisional tiebreaker.
San Diego, New York, Buffalo and Miami also remain alive in the AFC race after Week 14. The Browns are in good position when it comes to the Chargers, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker due to their 7-6 win.
Those other non-AFC North teams still in the hunt have the following games left to play:
Chargers: vs. CAR, at NYJ, vs. OAK
Jets: at TEN, vs. SD, at BUF
Bills: vs. SEA, at MIA, vs. NYJ
Dolphins: vs. JAX, vs. BUF, at NE
The Browns would get in at 8-8 over San Diego, Miami or the Jets. An 8-8 Bills squad would knock the 8-8 Browns out as a result of the Bills' head-to-head win.
In the case of a three-way tie at 8-8 between San Diego, Buffalo and Cleveland, the Browns are in. This means Browns fans will want to root for the 5-8 Chargers. A three-way tie at eight wins between the Jets, Browns and Bills catapults Buffalo to the final AFC spot. The Browns win three-way ties involving the Dolphins.
All of this means the Browns do still have a chance at the playoffs but will need a number of scenarios to work in their favor.
To further analyze how it could play out, you can check out ESPN's playoff machine .