No city deserves a playoff run more than Cleveland.
Cleveland has not enjoyed a major sports title of any kind since 1964, back when Jim Brown was running wild and Frank Ryan throwing the pigskin around to names like Gary Collins and Paul Warfield.
Since then, Browns fans have known nothing but heartbreak and pure torture, losing tough games and then the team altogether after the 1995 season. Perhaps even more painful, the NFL gave Cleveland the Browns once again in 1999, subjecting them to some of the worst football witnessed over the last 15 years.
Now, there is hope.
At 4-5, Cleveland does not seem like a likely candidate to make the playoffs on the surface. The Browns are on their third starting quarterback and have a rookie head coach in Rob Chudzinski. After starting 0-2, the front office traded the 2012 No. 3 overall pick, running back Trent Richardson, to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round selection in 2014. It appeared to be a surrender move. Now, it appears genius.
Yet, in the middle of November, things are starting to come together. Jason Campbell has stabilized the quarterback position, going 1-1 in his two games by knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and narrowly losing on the road against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs.
Campbell has been solid, throwing for 561 yards and five touchdowns without an interception this season. As important, the Browns finally have some weapons down the field for the 31-year-old journeyman to utilize.
Josh Gordon has become one of the premier deep threats in football, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. Gordon, in his second year out of Baylor University, leads Cleveland with 626 yards and 10 plays of 20+ yards. The speedster is complimented nicely by standout third-year tight end Jordan Cameron.
Cameron will be in the pro bowl discussion and for good reason. The former fourth round pick has exploded this season after catching 26 passes in his career before 2013. Cameron has 50 receptions and 600 yards, to go with a team-high six scores.
The defense is one of the better units in the league, ranking fifth in yards allowed per game, 11th in points, tied for third in sacks and tops in yards allowed per pass attempt.
There is a realistic chance the Browns steal the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals struggling and the Baltimore Ravens mired in inconsistent play. Cleveland already beat the division-leading Bengals (6-4) once and plays them this Sunday in the Queen City for a chance to make things really interesting.
Even if the Browns don't take the North, the second wild-card spot is a game of hot potato. Cleveland sits only one game behind the New York Jets, who currently occupy the sixth and final seed in the AFC playoff picture. If things remain this tight until Week 16, Cleveland will have its chance to bury New York when they meet on Dec. 22 at MetLife Stadium.
Certainly, the schedule is nothing impossible. The Browns travel to Cincinnati before hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Then, Cleveland visits the New England Patriots, hosts the Chicago Bears, and travels to play the Jets and Steelers.
It isn't a cakewalk, but five wins could be in that mix. Five victories would get the Browns to 9-7, likely good enough to make the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Good luck Cleveland, you deserve a little holiday fun.