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If, And, But: The Cleveland Browns Will Be in the Playoffs in 2013

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It's back to the drawing board…again?

The Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 after a three-year hiatus per se. And it hasn't been filled with a lot of success.

The team has enjoyed just two winning seasons since and made just one playoff appearance.

In fact, the Browns are a mere 23-57 the last five seasons since finishing 10-6 in 2007.

But the drawing board reference is in regards to a change at head coach and more.

And the Cleveland Browns will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2002…

If: The team makes offensive progress under new head coach Rob Chudzinski, the former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the former head coach of the San Diego Chargers. The Browns scored 302 points in 2012, hardly earth shattering but still an improvement over the team's total (218) in 2011. Running back Trent Richardson (12) and wide receiver Josh Gordon (5) added some spark, the rookie duo totaling 17 of the team's 28 offensive touchdowns.

And: The Cleveland defense continues to make strides. And there's no reason to think they won't under new coordinator Ray Horton, who made his mark with the Arizona Cardinals. Last season, the Browns forced 29 turnovers and totaled 38 sacks. But more significantly, this unit allowed only 118.6 yards per game on the ground, 19th in the league in 2012. And once again, while it is hardly an awe-inspiring figure it was a big sign of progress from recent seasons.

But: Quarterback Brandon Weeden has to take some big steps forward in his second season in the league. The Browns' second first-round pick from a year ago completed just 57.4 percent of his throws last season and committed more turnovers (18) compare to touchdown throws (14). The arrival of both Chudzinski and Turner should help Weeden immensely, especially the latter thanks to his emphasis on the ground game. A big year from Richardson could make life a lot easier on Weeden.

So what do you think? In each of the last two seasons, the Browns are the lone team in the AFC North to sport a losing record. And only the Bills have currently gone longer without reaching the playoffs, Cleveland tied with the Raiders for the second longest active postseason drought. But with some of the teams in this division in transition, could it be time for the Browns to make a move?

Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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