Browns vs. Titans for the AFC Wildcard

CLE and TEN are both 7-5 with 4 games remaining. With JAX currently playing well and sitting at 8-4, it looks like the final wildcard spot will go to either the Browns or Titans. BUF, at 6-6, still has an outside chance, but the clear favorite for the wildcard right now is CLE. NFL Forecast gives CLE about a 50/50 shot at the wildcard and TEN about a 33% chance.

CLE and TEN are mirror images of one another. CLE has one of the top ranked offenses but one of the worst defenses, while TEN has a very strong defense but weak offense. All things considered, and accounting for opponent strength, TEN ranks 14th in the league and CLE ranks 16th. Here is how each team's stats break down:

TeamO PassO RunO Int RateO FumD PassD RunD Int RatePen Rate
NFL Avg6.124.010.0320.0266.134.010.0330.37

But the symmetry stops there. CLE has a far easier schedule than TEN for the final four weeks, and that is why they are the favorites for the wildcard spot despite being a very average team. Here is how the rest of CLE's schedule shapes up:

OpponentWin Prob.
at NYJ0.43
at Cin0.44

TEN's schedule is far tougher.

OpponentWin Prob.
at KC0.54
at IND0.12

The difference in the two teams' schedules is mostly due to their final opponents. CLE gets SF at home while TEN visits IND. The biggest uncertainty is how the Colts will play in week 17. If they have locked up the #2 seed they may rest their starters allowing TEN to have a much better chance of winning.

BUF still has a shot, especially if they can beat CLE (at CLE) next week. The Bills almost certainly need to go at least 3-1 in the last four weeks with this schedule:

OpponentWin Prob.
at CLE0.41
at PHI0.30

It will likely go down to the final week of the season. Unfortunately, the winner earns the right to a road game at (probably) SD or PIT for the right to visit NE.

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