Bills, Browns, Bucs Finally Giving their Fans Reason for Excitement

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As the late, great Tom Petty once sang “even the losers, get lucky sometimes.” The 2020 NFL season has been extremely strange, like the year itself, but the postseason, which takes place entirely in 2021, seems to be surreal. The divisional weekend/round of the NFL playoffs will soon be upon us, and looking at the slate, you’ll see three team names that almost always are not there.

That would be the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Let’s look at their match-ups this weekend, as well as their recent history of futility.

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Buffalo Bills

Taking a look at the betting lines and the XFL spreads for all the upcoming football games, the Bills are 2.5 point favorites over the visiting Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night. The over/under on this game is 50.  From 1999 to 2017, the Bills suffered through the longest active playoff drought of the four (if you believe the NHL qualifies) major North American professional sports leagues.

They were the last team of any in the four leagues to qualify for the postseason in the 21st century, and their AFC East division title this season is their first in a quarter-century. The Bills are the only AFC East team to have never won a Super Bowl, although they did reach the big game four times in a row in the early 1990s.

In fact, those four Super Bowl losses are pretty much the Buffalo Bills brand, when you think about it.

Cleveland Browns

While the Bills might be known, first and foremost, for getting to the pinnacle and then losing in the final stage, the Cleveland Browns are notorious for just plain losing at the base level.

Since restarting up again in 1999 (the original Browns moved away and became the Baltimore Ravens), the Browns have had only three winning seasons (2002, 2007 and this year), two playoff appearances (2002 and 2020), and winning less than one third of their games in total. The franchise achieved their first ever playoff win, at the Pittsburgh Steelers, last weekend. The last time the Cleveland Browns won a road playoff game prior to 2021, it was the original iteration of the franchise, way back in 1969.

The Brownies are synonymous with a lack of stability with regards to head coaches (10 full time and two interim since restarting in 1999) and quarterbacks (30 different starters over that span). ESPN gives them just an 18.7% chance of winning this weekend at defending champion Kansas City. The Browns are double digit underdogs in that game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If only the American football team owned by the Glazer family was anything like their English football team, Manchester United. While the soccer club has won the English top flight 20 times, the Buccaneers got their first playoff win since 2002 last weekend.

This trip to the postseason is their first since 2007. And to even get here, they had to reinvent themselves as a kind of retirement home New England Patriots, by signing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the twlight of their careers. The Bucs are three points dogs are New Orleans on Sunday.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of  “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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