CLEVELAND — Quarterback Derek Anderson will watch from the couch with his wife. Linebacker Andra Davis will flip back and forth. Guard Eric Steinbach figures something will come up and he’ll watch with some teammates. Kicker Phil Dawson will have a nice dinner, put his son in a Peyton Manning jersey and tune in.
Coach Romeo Crennel has a previous engagement.
“Usually, I try to entertain my wife because she needs entertaining,” he said. “She tells me all week that I’m gone. It’s a chance for her to spend some time with me. We might go out to dinner or something, but she gets that time Sunday after the game.”
The Browns (9-6) play the 49ers (5-10) today at 1 p.m. in the regular-season finale, but the main attraction comes tonight at 8:15 when the Colts (13-2) host the Titans (9-6) on NBC. If the Colts win, the Browns are in the playoffs. If the Titans win, the Browns head home for the offseason — even if they pick up their 10th win against San Francisco.
“It will be exciting to really root for another team,” tackle Kevin Shaffer said.
Due to tiebreakers, the only way the Browns’ result will affect the playoff picture is if Tennessee and Indianapolis tie. (If that rarity happens, the Browns would need a win or a tie versus the 49ers to get in the postseason.) But don’t tell the Browns their game is meaningless.
“Ten-and-6 sounds a lot better than 9-7,” Steinbach said.
“We want to finish this thing off right and go into the playoffs with a win under our belt,” running back Jamal Lewis said.
In the preseason the Browns were picked to finish last in the AFC North and Crennel was believed to be on the hot seat. Four months later they are one step away from the playoffs. The bummer is that it’s a step they could’ve taken last week in Cincinnati, when they blew the chance to guarantee a playoff spot with a 19-14 loss.
“We didn’t handle our business,” Lewis said. “We can’t blame anybody but ourselves.”
“We are a good enough team to be in the playoffs and do some things,” tight end Steve Heiden said. “That’s why it’s frustrating.”
If the Browns — 12-point favorites — take care of business against the 49ers and fourth-string quarterback Chris Weinke, they’ll have 10 wins for the first time since 1994. They will also have won seven straight at home to set a franchise record for most home wins in a season.
“We’re trying to change history around here,” defensive lineman Shaun Smith said.
“The fans have been great to us all year,” center Hank Fraley said. “We want to put on a good show for them.”
If the Browns make the playoffs, they would be the sixth seed and travel to San Diego (10-5) or Pittsburgh (10-5) next weekend. It would be San Diego if the Chargers beat the Raiders today. It would be Pittsburgh if the Chargers lose and the Steelers beat the Ravens.
If the Browns and Titans win, Cleveland would be only the third team since 1992 to finish 10-6 and not make the playoffs. Kansas City in 2005 and Miami in 2003 were the unfortunate ones.
“That just shows how good the AFC is,” Heiden said.
“Anytime you win 10 games in the NFL it’s a good thing, no matter if you’re in the playoffs or not,” defensive end Robaire Smith said.
Crennel convinced the Browns it’s a good thing the Colts-Titans game is at night. The Browns won’t be scoreboard watching and should be able to focus on the task at hand.
“If it’s a situation where it is our last game, we made a statement,” receiver Braylon Edwards said. “Hey, we know we stubbed our toe last week, but we gave it everything we had in our last game, did what the city wanted and fought strong. We had a 10-win season and finished on a good note.”
The Browns won’t know until around 11:30 tonight if they have to show up at Browns headquarters Monday to clean out their lockers or begin preparations for their first playoff trip since 2002. Tight end Kellen Winslow hopes it’s the latter and the Browns have at least one more chance to keep proving people wrong.
“If we get to the playoffs, we’ll be a team to be reckoned with,” he said. “If not, it’s a step up from last year. It’s not exactly where we want to be, but it is a step up.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.