Damarious Randall: Browns feel like a playoff team

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Hope swells off the shores of Lake Erie, casting a sliver of sunlight to pierce the callous, bitter darkness of a surging winter set to engulf the region.

A Browns team that habitually conveys only despair and fruitlessness to Cleveland during Christmas time is finally providing anticipation of a brighter future.

With quarterback wunderkind Baker Mayfield slinging frozen ropes, a bulldozing rookie running back, and a young defense with the pieces to galvanize into a top unit, it's easy to see the long-term optimism.

The Browns, however, haven't given up on making an improbable run this season.

"We feel like we're a playoff team," safety Damarious Randall said Tuesday, via The Akron Beacon Journal. "We feel like we deserve one of them six spots. We know we dug ourselves in a hole, and we know that we need some help. It starts with us winning out.

"If we win out, they just better not let us in the playoffs. I'm going to tell you that because the world was shocked when the Cavs came back from 3-1 [to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals].

"We got all the pieces, man. We're a complete team, and if guys take care of what they got to do play in and play out, we're a tough out. And I mean that, and everybody knows that."

The Browns have won three of their past five games since firing Hue Jackson, and now sit at 5-7-1.

The odds are long, but a path remains for Cleveland to snatch the AFC North title.

As laid out by NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano, the Browns must first win their final three games against the Broncos, Bengals and Ravens.

With two road games (at Denver, at Baltimore) it's no simple task. But if Baker's bunch does win out, it would then need the Steelers to lose out versus the Patriots, Saints and Bengals (5-8), and have the Ravens fall to either the Buccaneers or Chargers before the season-finale versus Cleveland.

The oddsmakers don't like the Browns chances. FiveThirtyEight gives Cleveland less than 1 percent chance of pulling it off; FPI calculates 0.1 percent; Football Outsiders lands at 0.3 percent.

Even if they can't pull off the impossible, the fact that on Dec. 12 a 0.1 percent chance exists that Cleveland can make the playoffs speaks to how quick the turnaround has been in the past month.

"That just goes to show how crazy the NFL is," Randall said of still having a path to the division crown, "and I think I said it before the year started: This is one of the most balanced years that I've seen the NFL have in a long time."

It shows how crazy the NFL is, and how bright the future could finally be for the Browns.

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