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Can the Cleveland Browns Salvage a .500 Record in 2013 with a Strong Second Half?

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | Maybe it's not quite time to write off the 2013 Cleveland Browns.

Even though the Browns are 3-5 at the halfway point of the 2013 NFL season, there's still a very real possibility that Cleveland may well record their first non-losing season since way back in 2007.

Cleveland took their first step in possibly salvaging this season by opting not to trade star wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon had been the subject of numerous trade rumors over the past couple of weeks and if he had been dealt, it would've been the most obvious sign that the Browns have given up on the 2013 season.

Now that we know that Cleveland's most feared offensive weapon will be around for the rest of the season, the Browns can get to work on trying to get back to .500. Even though seemingly everything this year has been an uphill struggle for the Browns, finishing 2013 with eight wins might not be as difficult as you'd think.

Cleveland's schedule in the second half of 2013 is very manageable. Aside from a road game against the 6-2 New England Patriots in Week 14, every other game is a winnable one for a Browns team that is certainly battle-tested at this point after road games against the Green Bay packers and Kansas City Chiefs the past two weeks.

It all starts in Week 9 with a home game against the Baltimore Ravens. While the Browns certainly have issues with a Ravens squad that has defeated Cleveland 11 straight times, Baltimore has been abysmal away from home this year, having already dropped a pair of road games to the mediocre Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. Also remember that Cleveland's defense did shut down the Baltimore offense in their Week 2 meeting.

After a bye in Week 10, Week 11 takes the Browns to Cincinnati to face the Bengals for the second time in 2013. The Browns did defeat Cincinnati 17-6 in Week 4, but the Bengals have been on a tear since then, winning four straight. If Cleveland's defense can step up to the plate again like they did in shutting down the Bengals in late September, the Browns can definitely snag a victory in the Queen City.

Weeks 12 and 17 will see the Browns face off with their archrival in the form of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh's fall from grace in the AFC pecking order has been one of the big stories in the first half of 2013, and their loss to the Oakland Raiders in Week 8 doesn't seem like a sign that the Steelers are going to turn their season around anytime soon. It's not impossible to think that the Browns could sweep a Pittsburgh team that has major issues moving the football.

Week 13 is a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. No offense to Jaguar fans, but if the Browns cannot win a home game against a team that could very well end up being remembered as the worst in NFL history, then I'd be absolutely astonished. Chalk this one up for the Browns.

After the aforementioned road game at New England in Week 14, the Browns return to FirstEnergy Stadium to host the Chicago Bears in Week 15. Injured Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should be back in action by then, so this is going to be a difficult game for a Cleveland secondary that hasn't been exactly spectacular in 2013. Cleveland's offense is going to have to show up against Chicago's porous defense for the Browns to have a chance in this one.

Week 16 takes the Browns on the road to face the New York Jets. This is the most difficult game to handicap on Cleveland's remaining schedule, as the Jets look like a playoff team one week and like absolute garbage the next -- it's been that way the whole season for New York. The Jets' struggles on offense lead me to think that the Browns can absolutely win this game, though.

Taking everything into account, on paper, a .500 record is definitely a possibly for the Browns in 2013 -- let's just hope that Cleveland can take care of business on the field the rest of the way.

Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.

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