The Browns are in the NFL playoffs for the first time in 17 years, and people expect them to go nowhere.
And, for the most part, that assessment is understandable, as we are talking about the Cleveland Browns, perhaps the most pathetic franchise in professional sports.
But fans shouldn’t entirely rule Baker Mayfield and Co.’s chances of going all the way. In fact, it’s not hard to build a path that would land the Browns at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.
Kevin Stefanski’s team will begin its postseason Sunday in Pittsburgh with a Wild Card Round showdown against the Steelers. Here are reasons for and against Cleveland winning Super Bowl LV:
Can Win Super Bowl
Assuming the Browns make it all the way to Tampa, Fla., the NFC has at least two teams that are better than they are, but not dramatically so. Every team in the NFC has legitimate flaws that could be their downfalls in the playoffs.
So, all the Browns have to do is make it to the Big Game to have a shot. Is that scenario likely? No, but it’s not totally crazy.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in football and should win the Super Bowl — period. But, should Patrick Mahomes have a rough day and the Chiefs get off to a slow start (something they’re prone to doing in the postseason), the door opens for anyone in the AFC, including the Browns.
Cleveland this season beat three eventual AFC playoff teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts. They also should’ve beaten the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago.
The Browns on Sunday looked better than the Steelers, whom they easily could beat in the first round. Sure, the Buffalo Bills are better than Cleveland, but would another Josh Allen playoff meltdown surprise anyone?
So, the Browns either need to beat the Chiefs or have someone else knock the defending champs. Hardly impossible.
If Cleveland makes it to the Super Bowl, it has the running game, passing game and pass-rushing necessary to hold its own — and potentially win – on the NFL’s biggest stage.
Can’t Win Super Bowl
Listen, the Browns are the No. 6 seed for a reason. Also, all the logic we just used to get them to the Super Bowl also could be used to knock them out of the playoffs at any point.
If you take out Kansas City, the AFC is wide open.
Working against Cleveland more than anything is its lack of experience. This is the first trip to the playoffs for Mayfield and many of his teammates, and any ugly postseason debut would not be shocking. Plus, the Browns have plenty of issues, including a below-average secondary, middle-of-the-road run defense and a quarterback who can make mistakes with the best of them.
Also, let’s face it: They’re the Browns. There is no way they can beat the Chiefs or the eventual NFC champion … right?