Cleveland Browns have history and hardships to overcome

It’s been a while since the Cleveland Browns have played a postseason game.

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, the Cleveland Browns owned an embarrassing 101-234-1 regular-season record since re-entering the NFL as an expansion team back in 1999. There was a 10-6 finish in 2007 which did not result in a playoff appearance.

There was a 9-7 mark in 2002 which earned the club an appearance in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs. Led by quarterback Kelly Holcomb, Butch Davis’ squad led the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-7, in the third quarter at Heinz Field before falling late in the fourth quarter, 36-33.

The last time the Cleveland Browns won a postseason game was when the original franchise (now in Baltimore) bested the New England Patriots in the 1994 wild card round. It was a battle of coaching legends as Bill Belichick and company got the best of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells. The quarterback was Vinny Testaverde, the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.

These days, the Browns’ quarterback is Baker Mayfield, the top selection in the 2018 draft. He’s had a solid year and played well down the stretch. The defense has one of the top players at his position in end Myles Garrett.

It’s also a club that features the league’s third-best ground game and a defense that can get after the quarterback and force opponents into mistakes. Is that enough to pull off a major surprise at Pittsburgh, where the team hasn’t won since 2003 and fell earlier this year by a 38-7 score?

The Cleveland Browns own an 11-5 record, the best mark since the club returned to the NFL in 1999. But this week, they will be without a number of players due to COVID-19, as well as head coach Kevin Stefanski (via ESPN’s Jake Trotter).

Combine that adversity with a lot of history and a playoff win would be quite the accomplishment. Then again, it could be a make-good Sunday night for a franchise that has been much-maligned for two decades-plus.