A win has major implications for Browns

A Cleveland Browns win Thursday night over the Buffalo Bills would put them in some rare air.

Not in terms of most NFL worlds, but in terms of the Browns since they returned from an Art Modell-imposed hiatus in 1999.

A win would put the Browns over. 500 for the first time since the third game of the 2011 season. That’s more than two years of sub-.500 football.

Which sounds bad, except the Browns have been over .500 in only six of 14 seasons since they returned. In two of them the only time they were over .500 was when they were 2-1 (2000 and 2011). And in one of those six they were 1-0 and spent the rest of the season below “the Cleveland line.”

Beating the Bills means the Browns have won three in a row, something they've done all of three times since 1999 -- in 2001, 2009 and 2012.

In none of those seasons did the Browns finish with a winning record. In ‘01, they were 7-9. In ‘09, they were 5-11 when a four-game winning streak late in the season saved Eric Mangini’s job. And in ‘12, they finished 5-11 even with a late-season three-game winning streak.

How big is a three-game winning streak to these fans? The Browns went two entire seasons -- 2004 and 2005 -- without winning two games in a row.

Ah, but there’s more.

A win gives the Browns a 3-2 record, a momentous occasion for this team.

The last time the Browns were 3-2 was 2001 -- when they finished 7-9 and had to endure the now infamous “Bottle Game” against Jacksonville late in the season.

That's correct, the Browns have not won three of their first five games in 12 seasons. In the 14 seasons they’ve been back they have never started 5-0 or 4-1, and they started 3-2 once.

They had eight seasons when they started 2-3, three when they started 1-4 and two when they were 0-5. In a perfect symmetry, the 0-5 seasons were the first when they returned (1999) and most recent (2012).

Things have been even worse recently. In the past seven years in their first five games, the Browns have gone 9-26, a .257 won-lost percentage. In their first seven years back, they went 13-22 (.371). Neither result is great, but at least in the first seven seasons the Browns won more than one in four games early in the season.

The moral of the story: Browns fans really have endured a lot the past 14 seasons.