COMMENTARY | The Cleveland Browns could find themselves in an unfamiliar place on October 3.
On that night, the Browns will host the Buffalo Bills in a nationally-televised game at FirstEnergy Stadium. A win will give the Browns sole possession of first-place in the AFC North for the first time in a very long time.
How long, you ask?
Nearly 11 years.
Unbelievably, Cleveland has not been by themselves atop the AFC North since the morning of October 6, 2002. Later that day, the 2-2 Browns fell at home to the 1-2 Baltimore Ravens by a score of 26-21, allowing the Ravens to leapfrog them for the division lead.
Since that day, save for a few weeks here and there that saw Cleveland tied for lead in the AFC North, what has followed that halcyon 2002 season has been a decade of misery for Browns fans.
Needless to say, a win over the Bills and a stay in first place will do wonders for the confidence of the young Browns, but getting there is not going to be easy.
The Bills are also 2-2 so far in 2013 and are fresh off a 23-20 victory over the Ravens in Week 4. With a first-year head coach in Doug Marrone and a first-year quarterback in E.J. Manuel, Buffalo themselves are looking to put years of mediocrity behind them in 2013.
These two teams are no strangers to each other. Somewhat surprisingly, this matchup between the Bills and Browns will be their sixth meeting since 2007. Cleveland is 3-2 versus the Bills in these games, but they haven't defeated Buffalo since 2009.
Last year's meeting, in particular, was a disappointing one for the Browns. A 24-14 loss to the Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium in a game that saw Cleveland amass just 240 total yards of offense sent the Browns to 0-3 on the young 2012 season.
Certainly, this year's Browns squad is a better one than the group that finished 5-11 in 2012, but this game will most likely be a close one given Buffalo's track record so far in 2013. The Bills have not had a game decided by more than a touchdown so far this season, and three of them were decided by a field goal or less.
This is because the Bills have a habit of playing at the level of their competition. The same team that beat Baltimore and gave the New England Patriots a run for their money in a close Week 1 loss also managed to lose 27-20 to the moribund New York Jets in Week 3.
Knowing this, expect the Bills to fight for the entire 60 minutes. At the end of the day, though, Cleveland's fearsome defense will be too much for the young Buffalo offense to handle, as the Browns sneak away with the victory that will finally end that nasty 11-year streak once and for all.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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