Can the Cleveland Browns make the NFL Playoffs this year?

Cleveland ended a 17-year postseason drought when they reached the playoffs in 2020 but haven’t since. Will this year be different?
CINCINNATI, OHIO – DECEMBER 11: Amari Cooper #2 of the Cleveland Browns against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

On Sunday, September 10, the Cleveland Browns will open up their 2023 campaign at home against the dominant Cincinnati Bengals. (Editor’s note: Right Down Euclid will be roaming the Muni Lot pregame, handing out free Bud Light to fans for a video project. Keep an eye open for us!) Free beer aside, for Cleveland, a win over Cincinnati could make a statement that the Browns aren’t a playoff hopeful but a legitimate threat in the AFC.

Historically speaking, the Bengals are a winning organization after making the postseason five times in the last ten years and even having a Super Bowl appearance. Granted, considering the frugality of ownership despite bleeding Hamilton County dry, Cincinnati doesn’t have much to show for it. So, even though they’re more like the NFL’s Tampa Bay Rays, they’re still a model of success for any team. Considering they’re a Super Bowl favorite this year, it cannot be understated how significant the Browns beating the Bengals would be.

Sure, Cleveland recently ended a 17-year postseason drought when they reached the playoffs in the 2020 NFL season. They even won a postseason game, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild-Card Round before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the Browns have only reached the postseason once over the past 20 years after missing out during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

For this current regime, it’s do-or-die time for Cleveland as head coach Kevin Stefanski and quarter-billion quarterback Deshaun Watson try to guide the Browns back to the playoffs and beyond. Today, Right Down Euclid will break down the upcoming season for the Browns, tally up their final record and predict how far Cleveland will go if they make the playoffs.

Week 1: Versus Cincinnati Bengals

As dominant as Cincinnati has been with Joe Burrow under center in recent years, Cleveland has won 5 of the past 6 meetings between the interstate rivals. Burrow’s preseason calf injury could hamper things for the Bengals, a team already notorious for slow starts, and be the perfect recipe for disaster for Cincinnati. Sure, the Bengals are bringing MOABs on offense to a knife fight at Cleveland Browns Stadium with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But newly-hired Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is notorious for pressuring quarterbacks and could dial things up to make a hobbled Burrow even more uncomfortable. It’s close but the Browns pull off the upset.

Final score: Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 20

Week 2: At Pittsburgh Steelers

Have you ever gone to a bar to catch the game, only to feel drunk, exhausted and depressed simultaneously? That’s what Pittsburgh Steelers football feels like all the time. Last season, the Steelers averaged a pathetic 18 points per game. Their workhorse running back hit the century mark a total of one time. Their best wideout scored zero touchdowns and they tied for the second-most touchdown passes allowed leaguewide. So, with quite a few people crowning Pittsburgh after going undefeated in the preseason, it feels a little premature since the Steelers are still a work in progress.

Over on defense, Pittsburgh is trying to cut down on the number of big plays they gave up a year ago by adding Joey Porter Jr., Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan and Keanu Neal to the secondary. Peterson and Sullivan were teammates in Minnesota last season. The Vikings had the worst pass defense in the entire NFC. If you have Amari Cooper on your fantasy team, start him against the Steelers.

On offense, the line is still a work in progress and Najee Harris has far more tread on his tires, which is a recipe for success for Pittsburgh’s antiquated offense. Funnily enough, quarterback Kenny Pickett left said playbook in his car, which was stolen this offseason. That playbook was recovered because nobody fears what’s in it, especially with Pickett under center. Sure, Pickett represents a karmic upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger, but what you saw last season is all you’re going to get for his career which isn’t all that intimidating. But since he played for Pitt to make up for not drafting Dan Marino Steelers fans will love him either way.

T.J. Watt is still a monster when healthy and Mike Tomlin is the best coach in football so he’ll still find a way to squeeze enough blood from this keystone team to make it competitive. But the Browns should start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1993.

Final score: Cleveland 30, Pittsburgh 10

Week 3: Versus Tennessee Titans

Speaking of squeezing blood out of stones, Titans head coach Mike Vrabels’ defense will be equipped to pick up on what Pittsburgh failed to do. This might be the throwback game of the year, with running backs Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb trading blows against the defenses. But Cleveland’s pass rush is too good for the Titans’ rebuilt offensive line, and the offense reverts to being one-dimensional down the stretch.

Final score: Cleveland 17, Tennessee 13

Week 4: Versus Baltimore Ravens

The new Browns host the old Browns first tilt in another playoff test against the Baltimore Ravens. Assuming Lamar Jackson is healthy, Baltimore has the edge at quarterback and with a new offensive identity, could spell disaster for Cleveland. The Browns will have to maintain a presence on the ground behind Chubb and limit opportunities for the Ravens to turn this into a track meet. Unfortunately, it might not be enough and the Browns land their first loss of the year.

Final score: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 17

Week 6: Versus San Francisco 49ers

After a tough loss to the Ravens, the Browns get to lick their wounds during a Week 5 bye but things don’t get any easier. The San Francisco 49ers are arguably one of the best teams in football and former Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is running the show as one of the league’s best coaches. Everything about this team’s fortunes this season, and in seasons to come, resides at quarterback, a position that Shanahan has yet to make whole. If Brock Purdy is healthy and last season wasn’t a fluke, the Niners are too talented to make this competitive. But even if the offense is struggling, the defense is equally terrifying and could force the Browns to lose two in a row.

Final score: San Francisco 23, Cleveland 14

Week 7: At Indianapolis Colts

On paper, Anthony Richardson has all the tools to be a fun quarterback in the NFL and the Colts should have a franchise quarterback on their hands. Hopefully, things don’t end like they did for Andrew Luck but Indianapolis is rebuilding and Cleveland should bounce back from two tough losses.

Final score: Cleveland 24, Indianapolis 14

Week 8: At Seattle Seahawks

Despite the feel-good road win, the Browns cannot carry the momentum into Seattle to face the Seahawks. Granted, the Seahawks are much better than the Colts and the time change and Seattle faithful could make this a rough outing for Cleveland.

Final score: Seattle 20, Cleveland 14

playoffs myles garrett cardinals browns
CLEVELAND, OHIO – OCTOBER 17: Defensive end Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns pauses during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 37-14. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Week 9: Versus Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals will be the worst team in football and are a perfect opportunity for the Browns to regain their mojo after a frustrating loss in Seattle the week prior. If things get out of hand quickly enough, Dorian Thompson-Robinson could see minutes for Cleveland.

Final score: Cleveland 32, Arizona 10

Week 10: At Baltimore Ravens

Like their last matchup, this all hinges on whether or not Lamar Jackson is healthy and the Ravens are fully executing their new offense. Cleveland hasn’t won in their last three visits to Baltimore so if Jackson is available, the Browns will suffer another frustrating loss.

Final score: Baltimore 17, Cleveland 10

Week 11: Versus Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite the Steelers not being a good team on paper, Mike Tomlin could have Pittsburgh nipping at Cleveland’s heels. Thankfully, the Browns keep their winning ways at home and take care of the Steelers, sweeping the season series.

Final score: Cleveland 21, Pittsburgh 14

Week 12: At Denver Broncos

The Broncos will be the most fascinating team to watch this upcoming season. The last time these two teams played was one of the ugliest games in recent Denver Broncos memory, a Thursday Night Football matchup in 2021 with virtually no offense to speak of outside of Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson.

If Russell Wilson can bounce back from a dreadful 2022-23 campaign, Denver could be a team jockeying with Cleveland for a possible Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Ditto for Deshaun Watson, who wants to prove he’s worth all the money the Browns paid him. On paper, it should be a relatively explosive offensive matchup but the Broncos take advantage of their rabid fans at home and find a way to win.

Final score: Denver 32, Cleveland 28

Week 13: At Los Angeles Rams

The original Cleveland football team hosts the current Cleveland football team in beautiful Los Angeles. On paper, the Rams are about to have a dreadful season as they continue to reel after a Super Bowl title a few years ago. The Browns take care of business against a lousy team and climb back to .500 on the road. Maybe they can bring LeBron back with them, too.

Final score: Cleveland 32, Los Angeles 14

Week 14: Versus Jacksonville Jaguars

After a decisive win in Los Angeles, the Browns come home and fall flat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville isn’t some powerhouse on either side of the ball but they have a superstar quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and their defense is solid enough to contain the threat of Watson and Chubb.

Final score: Jacksonville 24, Cleveland 20

Week 15: Versus Chicago Bears

The last time Justin Fields faced the Browns, he was sacked nine times — four of those from Myles Garrett. While Fields should be better protected this time by the Bears, this game could prove difficult for Chicago, especially against a Cleveland team that was punked the week prior. The Browns keep their hopes for the playoffs alive in a decisive victory over the hapless Bears.

Final score: Cleveland 30, Chicago 10

CANTON, OHIO – AUGUST 03: Aaron Rodgers #8 of the New York Jets talks with Dorian Thompson-Robinson #17 of the Cleveland Browns after the Browns 21-16 win over the Jets in the 2023 Pro Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on August 03, 2023 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Week 16: At Houston Texans

Facing two bad teams in back-to-back weeks is just the ticket for the Browns as Deshaun Watson returns to Houston to pummel the Texans, his former team. Across the league, the race for the playoffs is getting tighter and tighter.

Final score: Cleveland 32, Houston 14

Week 17: Versus New York Jets

Unlike when the Browns hosted the New York Jets in the annual Hall of Fame game, hopefully, the lights stay on. Both Cleveland and New York will be in a dogfight at this point of the season, battling for one of the final spots in the playoffs. It should be an ugly, wintery matchup on Thursday Night Football and since Cade York isn’t handling kicking responsibilities, the Browns win in the closing seconds by three points.

Final score: Cleveland 19, New York 16

Week 18: At Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland’s entire season comes down to this and with a win, they’re likely in the playoffs for the first time in several seasons. To the surprise of none, the Bengals should be sitting pretty as one of the AFC’s top seeds alongside the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Cincinnati could be focused on the playoffs rather than this matchup with the Browns and rest their starters. Cleveland thanks the football Gods for this blessing and punches their ticket to the playoffs.

Final score: Cleveland 24, Cincinnati 14

Final record: 11-6, Seventh Seed in the AFC Playoffs

Final prediction:

playoffs final prediction

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

Did you enjoy this story from Right Down Euclid? Then it would be best if you became a paid supporter. As a non-profit news organization, every dollar goes toward making fully independent Cleveland coverage possible. It takes all of us!

A huge thank you to our community partners Engage! Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, Studio W 117, COSE and many others!


Thanks for reading!

Let’s stay in touch. The Right Down Euclid newsletter is a recap of the week’s top stories.

Sign up for free now. You can unsubscribe any time.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top