The Browns might be back in the AFC playoff race, but they'll have to march on without their best player.
On Friday, the NFL suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely for his actions during the brawl at the end of Cleveland's 21-7 win over the Steelers on Thursday night.
You've probably seen the video by now. After sacking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, Garrett and the young quarterback got into an altercation on the ground. Eventually, Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off, causing the quarterback to charge at him while two Steelers linemen worked to separate the two. As Rudolph charged, Garrett swung the helmet at Rudolph, connecting with the quarterback's head, leading to the full-on brawl.
After opening the season with a tough schedule that saw them go 2-6, the Browns have rebounded with wins over the Bills and Steelers to climb back to 4-6. They currently sit 1.5 games behind the Raiders for the No. 6 seed in the AFC but have the second easiest schedule remaining.
The Steelers' loss allowed the Raiders to jump them, and Pittsburgh will be without center Maurkice Pouncey for the next three games, making their path to the playoffs even tougher.
The Raiders sit at 5-4 with games against the Bengals and Jets over the next two weeks. The Silver and Black will be favored in both those games, and will be 7-4 heading into a Week 13 game against the Chiefs should they take care of business.
Cleveland has shown life over the past two weeks, and the Browns have the talent to make a run at the playoffs in the mediocre AFC. The Browns play the 2-7 Dolphins in Week 12 before facing the Steelers again in Week 13. After that rivalry game, the Browns close with two games against the winless Bengals, a battle with the Cardinals and a tough game against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
All of those games are winnable. The Browns already beat the Ravens earlier this season. The addition of Kareem Hunt has given the Browns an added offensive dimension and they could get on a roll if the confidence starts flowing.
It will be tough without Garrett anchoring the defense, though. The Browns' defense has played well over the last two weeks and Garrett surely would feast on the Dolphins and Bengals in the coming weeks.
To pass the Raiders, Colts, Steelers and/or Bills, the Browns likely will need to 5-1 the rest of the way and hope for a few of those teams to continue to falter. That's more than possible. The Raiders have won a ton of close games, the Bills reek of being fraudulent, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is banged up and the Steelers crawled back to .500 with smoke and mirrors.
Grit, toughness and resiliency have been the Raiders' calling card this season, one they are hoping can get them through what has been a trying season and back to the playoffs for the second time since 2002.
After surviving their long road trip, the Raiders won back-to-back games over the Lions and Chargers and are primed to be riding a four-game winning streak heading into Kansas City with the AFC West lead potentially on the line. Everything is in front of them.
The Browns were a trendy Super Bowl pick before the season started, and some thought a late-season run to the playoffs was in the cards for Freddie Kitchens' crew.
The soft late-season schedule helps, but losing Garrett will be tough to overcome. If the Browns are to crash the playoff party Baker Mayfield will have to take his play up a notch and find the chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr. so many thought they'd exhibit from Day 1.
The Raiders have bigger goals in front of them than a wild-card spot, but they might have one less team to contend with for one of the final two spots should the Chiefs pull away in the AFC West.