Let me see a show of hands of everyone who was alive the last time the Browns won their season opener. Ok, seriously, it wasn’t quite that long ago, but it might seem like it.

Let me take you back to September 12, 2004. A beautiful Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The hated Baltimore Ravens were the opponents. At the time, the game was…meh. Both teams gained around 250 yards-it was a contest of which team could avoid screwing up.

Two interceptions and a fumble by Baltimore quarterback Kyle Boller helped Cleveland break open a game tied 3-3 late in the third quarter and post a 20-3 victory. That same Browns defense would allow 58 points against Cincinnati later in the season, but they were tough that day. They held Ravens star Jamal Lewis to 57 yards on 20 carries a year after he had rumbled for a then-league record 295 yards against Cleveland and followed that later in the season with a 205-yard effort against them.

Who would have guessed how significant that 2004 game would be?

Now, 18 years later, Cleveland fans are still waiting to celebrate the second season opening win of the franchise since its rebirth in 1999. In case there is any doubt, that 17-year streak, blemished only by a tie against the Steelers in 2018, is far and away an NFL record. Previously, the longest stretch a team endured without winning their opener was nine years by the Philadelphia Eagles from 1968-1976.

My goal here is not to bum you out, Browns fans. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Although opening game futility has become a Browns trademark, that has little if any influence on what happens next Sunday in Charlotte. I think Cleveland is well positioned to win that game.

I’m sure Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney would love to get personally reacquainted with their former teammate Baker Mayfield in the Panthers backfield-often. I expect the Browns secondary to keep wide receiver D. J. Moore under control, and I’ll be waiting for a too-fired up Mayfield to try to force the ball into places he shouldn’t and create turnovers. On the other side of the ball, I look for Cleveland to employ the full force of their running game and for Jacoby Brissett to mix in passes to Amari Cooper and David Njoku to control the ball.

My main point here, though, is not the analysis of the game so much as it’s time to celebrate freakin’ football season! Teams playing are always better than teams not playing. Discussing and debating coaching and officials’ decisions, individual matchups, or even how to set up a better tailgate experience is infinitely better than awaiting the latest news on off-the-field issues.

Even though I wrote plenty about the Deshaun Watson situation over the past few months, that’s not why I signed up to write for this site. I want to watch football, talk about football, write about football, then watch more football, etc. Next Sunday is when the fun starts! Finally, after what has been a long, long offseason for Browns fans. It’s time to tee the ball up, kick it off, and see who has the best team.

It’s finally time for NFL football. Let’s have some fun!

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