Around the NFL: Do the Browns have a chance to make the playoffs?
The last time this region’s sports stars were so gloriously aligned was 1954.
The Indians won 111 games. Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes won a national football title. Paul Brown’s Browns smoked Detroit, 56-10, in the NFL championship game.
With the Cavs a few months removed from an NBA Finals, and the Buckeyes and Indians on top of their games, 2007 has that once-on-a-blue-moon buzz.
Can the Browns get in the act? After winning their last three home games with a fun-to-watch offense, they’re at least on the radar.
Nobody is talking Super Bowl with a straight face, but tones of playoff contention have been raised to more than a whisper.
Here’s a look at the 10 opponents the Browns will face after the bye week:
Oct. 28 at St. Louis (0-6)
Last three: Lost 35-7 at Dallas, lost 34-31 to Arizona, lost 22-3 at Baltimore.
NFL rank: No. 29 offense (283.5 yards per game), No. 221 defense (338.0)
Dangerous: WR Torry Holt is 31 and has knee issues, but he averaged more than five catches in Games 1 through 5.
Issues: QB Marc Bulger is trying to come back from broken ribs. After watching Gus Frerotte throw five interceptions at Baltimore, Rams fans say, “Please hurry.” WR Drew Bennett, a free agent, hasn’t looked like a million. RB Steven Jackson disappointed in three games and missed the next three with a groin injury.
Nov. 4 vs. Seattle (3-3)
Last three: Won 23-3 at San Francisco, lost 21-0 at Pittsburgh, lost 28-17 to New Orleans.
NFL rank: No. 18 offense (330.8), No. 20 defense (336.7).
Dangerous: QB Matt Hasselbeck has passed for 1,510 yards (362 against the Saints) and nine touchdowns but has thrown five picks during his last four games and was sacked five times Sunday.
Issues: RB Shaun Alexander, league MVP in 2005, is 30 and fading. The Steelers and Saints allowed him a combined 60 yards. He still can hurt a bad run defense as shown by 21 carries and 100 yards vs. the Bengals.
Nov. 11 at Pittsburgh (4-1)
Last three: Beat 49ers 37-16, lost at Arizona 24-21, beat Seahawks 21-0.
NFL rank: No. 9 offense (351.8), No. 1 defense (235.6).
Dangerous: Coordinator Dick LeBeau, 70, is thriving amid the transition from Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin. SS Troy Polamalu, DE Brett Keisel and LB James Farrior are attacking from unpredictable positions.
Issues: Arizona found a crack in Willie Parker’s armor, leaving him with a 19-carry, 37-yard game. No. 2 back Najeh Davenport could face jail time after a domestic violence arrest. WRs Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward are returning from injuries.
Nov. 18 at Baltimore (4-2)
Last three: Lost at Cleveland 27-13, won at San Francisco 9-7, beat Rams 22-3.
NFL rank: No. 19 offense (329.8), No. 4 defense (272.3).
Dangerous: RB Willis McGahee has provided the anticipated upgrade over Jamal Lewis, producing 677 rushing-receiving yards. Lewis gave the Browns 415 rushing-receiving yards before losing time to a foot injury.
Issues: QB Kyle Boller will never be a Steve McNair in his prime, and McNair is past his prime. Boller is scheduled to start Sunday at Buffalo, with McNair coming back after the bye week to face Pittsburgh.
Nov. 25 vs. Houston (3-3)
Last three: Lost 26-16 at Atlanta, beat Dolphins 22-19, lost at Jacksonville 37-17.
NFL rank: No. 11 offense (342.0), No. 16 defense (330.0).
Dangerous: After never getting started with former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, the offense has a pulse behind QB Matt Schaub (1,558 yards).
Issues: Ron Dayne and Ahman Green have been a soft one-two running punch. Green got 16 carries but produced just 44 yards last Sunday at Jacksonville. CB DeMarcus Faggins has been burned by wideouts with less talent than Braylon Edwards.
Dec. 2 at Arizona (3-3)
Last three: Beat Steelers 24-21, won at St. Louis 34-31, lost to Panthers 25-10.
NFL rank: No. 17 offense (332.8), No. 15 defense (328.0).
Dangerous: WR Larry Fitzgerald had a 10-catch, 120-yard game against Pittsburgh. A week earlier, Anquan Boldin had a 14-catch, 181-yard game at Baltimore.
Issues: QB Matt Leinart broke a collarbone Oct. 7, forcing the Cardinals to consider calling up ex-Brown Lang Campbell from the practice squad. Instead, they signed Tim Rattay, who had to play last Sunday because Kurt Warner sprained his non-throwing elbow while getting sacked.
Dec. 9 at New York Jets (1-5)
Last three: Lost 17-14 at Buffalo, lost 35-24 to Giants, lost 16-9 to Eagles.
NFL Rank: No. 30 offense (279.7), No. 28 defense (374.8).
Dangerous: RB Thomas Jones rushed 24 times for 130 yards Sunday at home against Philadelphia after two weak road games.
Issues: QB Chad Pennington has thrown six interceptions during a three-game losing streak. Browns vs. Jets could renew an Oregon State (Derek Anderson) vs. Oregon (Kellen Clemens) rivalry. Clemens was a Round 2 pick out of Oregon last year.
Dec. 16 vs. Buffalo (1-4)
Last three: Lost at New England 38-7, beat Jets 17-14, lost to Cowboys 25-24.
NFL rank: No. 31 offense (226.6), No. 32 defense (421.4).
Dangerous: Rookie Round 1 pick Marshawn Lynch had a 19-carry, 90-yard game against Denver.
Issues: Rookie QB Trent Edwards has impressed some Bills higher-ups with J.P. Losman down with an injury. Aaron Schobel got a big contract coming off a 14-sack year but is being negated this time around.
Dec. 23 at Cincinnati (1-4)
Last three: Lost at Seattle 24-21, lost to New England 34-13, lost at Kansas City 27-20.
NFL rank: No. 4 offense (367.0) vs. No. 30 defense (393.2).
Dangerous: Carson Palmer is posting big raw yardage numbers but has thrown eight interceptions in his last four games. Getting WR Chris Henry back from an eight-game suspension could be pivotal.
Issues: The bad karma of off-the-field problems has weighed on Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who said the team must rid itself of a “selfish” element. LT Levi Jones isn’t the same in the wake of two knee surgeries. Rudi Johnson ran 118 yards at Cleveland but just 67 yards combined in three other games.
Dec. 30 vs. San Francisco (2-3)
Last three: Lost at Pittsburgh 37-16, lost to Seahawks 23-3, lost to Baltimore 9-7.
NFL rank: No. 32 offense (203.2), No. 20 defense (337.8).
Dangerous: QB Alex Smith, a No. 1 overall pick in 2005, seemed on the verge of a breakout before suffering a shoulder injury against Pittsburgh. He’s due back in the huddle with plenty of time to get hot between now and Week 17.
Issues: The offense has been arctic when Trent Dilfer has had to play. The receiving corps is shaky. Coming off a 1,695-yard rushing year, Frank Gore has slipped. He averaged 15 carries for 3.1 yards against the Ravens and Steelers.
Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail email@example.com