As variable as sports can be, some teams just have another’s number. Take, for example, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers in football. Indiana hasn’t beaten Ohio State on the gridiron since 1988. It seems that no matter where they play and who is playing, Ohio State manages to pull out a victory – at least since Reagan left office. We see it in runs and spurts through every level in every league. Except when it comes to the Browns.
The past 21 years of Cleveland Browns football have read like the weather report from Hell: Lousy with a chance of disaster. The club has accrued a 101-234-1 record since returning in 1999. It seems like they’ve been an easy mark for almost every club in the NFL, but could there be some hidden strengths inside those weaknesses? Looking ahead at the 2020 schedule, is it possible that the Browns have someone’s number? You probably already know the answer, but let’s find out anyway.
Week 1 & 14: at & vs. Baltimore Ravens
Overall: Ravens lead 31-11
Since 1999: Ravens lead 31-11
Baltimore has had little to no problems with the Browns since 1999. Cleveland hasn’t swept Baltimore since 2007 and has only managed back-to-back wins on two occasions. Compare this to the Raven’s 11-game win streak from 2008 to 2014. The only silver lining is that the Browns are 2-2 in the past four matchups as well as 2-4 on the road and 1-5 at home in the past three years. For extra fun, the Browns are hosting their former iteration on Monday night in Week 14. Cleveland is 0-2 against Baltimore on Monday night including the infamous Kick Six Game from 2015.
Week 2 & 7: vs. & at Cincinnati Bengals
Overall: Bengals lead 51-42
Since 1999: Bengals lead 27-15
The Battle of Ohio has been the most evenly matched divisional rivalry since the Browns returned. Cleveland has won three of the past four contests which is a step up from Cincinnati’s seven-game win streak from 2014-2017. In Week 2 they’ll meet on Thursday night; the franchises are an even 2-2 when they clash on Thursdays. More recently, the 2014 Browns defeated the Bengals 24-3 on Thursday night in Cincinnati, but the Bengals returned the favor 31-10 a year later. They’ve never had a weekday matchup so early in the season before. Against their in-state rivals, the Browns are 3-4 at home and 2-5 on the road in the past seven seasons.
Week 3: vs. Washington
Overall: Browns lead 33-12-1
Since 1999: Washington leads 3-1
Cleveland and Washington have only clashed four times since the Browns returned to the league. Cleveland won a home contest in 2004 (incidentally, the first Browns game I ever attended in person!) before losing the next three contests. The good news is that the series is tied 1-1 in Cleveland, but there’s honestly not enough data to have a firm grip on this series.
Week 4: at Dallas Cowboys
Overall: Browns lead 17-14
Since 1999: Dallas leads 4-0
Opportunity alert! The Browns have not defeated the Cowboys since December 1994. Cleveland managed a competitive game in 2012 but otherwise has been outscored by America’s Team 105-52 in the four matchups. Baker Mayfield will no doubt feel a little extra motivated playing in his home state of Texas.
Week 5: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Overall: Colts lead 17-16
Since 1999: Colts lead 8-1
The Browns have not defeated the Colts in Cleveland since 1988. The lone victory over Indiana’s franchise came in its capital city in 2011 (a.k.a. The Peyton Hillis Era). Both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck enjoyed success against the Browns. Arguably the Browns should have prevailed at home in 2014, but a late Luck comeback killed those hopes.
Week 6 & 17: at & vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall: Steelers lead 76-59-1
Since 1999: Steelers lead 35-7-1
We all knew this was coming. The numbers are bad. The Browns have been bad against the entire league for most of two decades, but they seem to save the worst performances for games against Pittsburgh. The lineup is littered with terrible memories – a 32-point loss in the 2010 season, a 31-0 shutout in 2008, a 41-0 lump of coal on Christmas Eve 2005, the list goes on. The Browns are 1-8-1 in their last ten games against the Yinzers. They were 3-16-1 in the past decade. If you squint (and have a drink) you can say the Browns are 1-3-1 at home in their last five home games and convince yourself that’s something. The Browns haven’t won at Heinz Field since 2003. Y’know what? Let’s move on.
Week 8: vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Overall Raiders lead 15-10
Since 1999: Browns lead 6-5
Now we’re talking! The Raiders reached the Super Bowl in 2002 then promptly fell into mediocrity. They have routinely finished in the same divisional position as the Browns which made them regular foes. The Raiders have a two-game winning streak in the series, but the Browns are 3-1 at home against the Raiders since ’99. It’s a long flight from the west coast (or the desert for that matter) so perhaps that works in the Browns favor. Regardless, they’ve enjoyed some home cooking against the Black and Silver.
Week 10: vs. Houston Texans
Overall: Texans lead 7-3
Since 1999: Texans lead 7-3
The NFL’s two newest teams have met ten times. The Browns won three of the first five games, but it has been all Houston since then. The Texans have won five straight against Cleveland. Luckily the two teams will meet in Ohio this year where Cleveland is 2-2. Reliant Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Browns where they are 1-5.
Week 11: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Overall: Browns lead 31-17-1
Since 1999: Eagles lead 5-0
Hey, look, another opportunity! The Browns have not vanquished the Eagles since 1994 and have not done so in Northeast Ohio since 1988. The good news in 2020 is that 1.) the sting of missing Carson Wentz is mostly mitigated thanks to Baker Mayfield; 2.) the games in Cleveland have been decided by 11, 3, and 1 points; and 3.) Brandon Weeden is not walking through that door.
Week 12: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Overall: Jaguars lead 12-5
Since 1999: Jaguars lead 10-5
The Jags just seem to have the Browns’ number. Jacksonville holds a three-game win streak in the series and the Browns have not beaten them in Florida since 2008. If nothing else, maybe the Browns can crack double digits this time. They’ve managed seven or fewer points in five of the losses.
Week 13: at Tennessee Titans
Overall: Browns lead 35-32
Since 1999: Titans lead 10-5
The Browns’ wins against Tennessee seems to come in bursts – three straight from 1994-95, another three from 2001-05, and back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015. However, Tennessee has won the past three matchups including an utterly deflating Week 1 loss in 2019. The good news is, Cleveland managed the largest road team victory in NFL history in 2014’s 29-28 victory. So that’s some good mojo. Plus, Johnny Manziel beat them in 2015 so how good can they be?
Week 15: at New York Giants
Overall: Browns lead 27-22-2
Since 1999: Giants lead 4-1
The New York Giants, like much of the teams of this list, have enjoyed some success against the Browns since the latter’s return. The lone bright spot for Cleveland was 2008’s emphatic Monday night 35-14 victory. Otherwise, it’s been a 1-2 record at home and 0-2 in New Jersey. The Browns haven’t beaten the Giants on the road since December 1985 when new head coach Kevin Stefanski was three-years-old.
Week 16: at New York Jets
Overall: Browns lead 15-12
Since 1999: Jets lead 6-5
The Browns and Jets have been mostly even over the past two decades. Both have been consistently mediocre with dalliances with both excellence and pity. The Browns have handled themselves well on the road, going 3-2 at MetLife Stadium including last season’s Monday night victory. Cleveland even has an elusive two-game win streak against the Jets and are looking for the ever rare “three victories in three straight years against a non-division opponent.”
Clearly the Browns do not have anyone’s number. In fact, since 1999 they only have a winning record against one team they’re scheduled to play this autumn (thank you, Raiders). Overall, you’re looking at a team that is 2-16 against the NFC East and 60-155-1 against the schedule in the past twenty-one seasons. The good news and this is all relative, is that their 13-18-1 (.422) record in the past two seasons is their best two-season win percentage since a 14-18 (.433) run from 2007-08. In other words, they’re as well-positioned and well-stocked to snap some losing streaks as any stretch of recent team memory. Maybe this season some opponent won’t have the Browns number.