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Predicting the Browns' first chance to erase the zero in 2018

From ESPN - February 13, 2018

The last thing the Cleveland Browns need in 2018 is a bad start.

Following an 0-16 season with an 0-2 or 0-3 beginning would be calamitous for a team trying to rebuild its image.

The Browns' ideal situation would be to win their opener, but thats not something thats happened over the years. Since 1999, the Browns have lost 18 of 19 season openers, 14 at home.

There have been many forgettable moments.

In 1999, the Browns returned in prime time after a three-year hiatus. They had comedian Drew Carey on the field, they had a military flyover, they had a packed house. They lost to the Steelers 43-0.

The opener in 2002 featured the infamous Dwayne Rudd helmet toss, but thats barely the beginning of season-opening hijinks.

They lost when their punter got kicked in the facemask on a return, when their quarterback got caught under the U.S. flag in pregame and when they could not get out of the defensive huddle fast enough to get lined up to stop a touchdown pass.

Against the Steelers in 2007, the Browns used a punter they signed two days before the game; he dropped the snap on his first kick, which went 15 yards; the Browns were flagged for four penalties on the play. In the 2017 opener against Pittsburgh, the Browns had a punt blocked on their opening possession, and the Steelers recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

Does this kind of thing happen to other teams?

All of this is in the past, of course, but it does make for intriguing "what ifs" about 2018. The best scenario for the Browns opener would be to play a winnable team and... well... win. Yes, it sounds crazy; the Browns have won only once in their last 32 games and once in 19 openers since 1999. But 16 teams win on every season-opening week; the Browns eventually have to be one of them. It's important to note, though, that even with past struggles the team will look at any future game as winnable, as it should.

What team will the Browns face in the opener?

History since 1999 shows:

The Browns have opened against Pittsburgh three times, twice since 2014.

They have opened against Cincinnati twice, and Baltimore once. Their only season-opening win was over the Ravens in 2004.

Other openers were against five AFC teams and seven in the NFC, including the Eagles twice.

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