Welcome back to the NFL playoffs, Cleveland.
The Browns ended their drought Sunday, clinching a postseason berth by closing the regular season with a tighter than expected 24-22 victory over archrival Pittsburgh, which sat many of its starters. Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999, made the playoffs in 2002, and then, zilch. Until now.
"It's a moment I'll never forget," quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "But we're not satisfied. We expected to be here."
The NFL's two longest playoff droughts have been snapped with the advancements of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland, both 11-5 with the regular season over. The Bucs, who downed the Atlanta Falcons 44-27, already were in and secured the fifth seed in the NFC, setting up a visit to the sub-.500 NFC East Division winner, Washington (7-9). Tampa Bay's most recent trip to the playoffs was in the 2007 season.
The New York Jets, who most recently made the playoffs in the 2011 season, now have the unenviable longest active streak without a postseason berth.
Cleveland gets a rematch next Sunday night with the Steelers, the AFC North champions who will have their regulars back as they host in Pittsburgh. Regardless, this is an unfamiliar feeling in the Dawg Pound.
"There are hundreds of thousands, not just here," defensive end Myles Garrett said of the Browns' fan support. "The 12,000 here, that was great, but there are so many Browns (fans) all over the world who were happy to see us get this win and finally get into the dance."
The Packers Green Bay (13-3) have a first-round bye because they secured the top seed in the NFC after beating the Chicago Bears 35-16 in a North Division matchup, but the Bears (8-8) got in as the lowest conference seed when the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) defeated the Arizona Cardinals 18-7. Los Angeles is No. 6 in the NFC field and travels to face the Seattle Seahawks (12-4), the NFC West winners, for the late Saturday afternoon game, while the Bears go to New Orleans (12-4) to face the NFC South champion Saints in the second of three games next Sunday. The Cardinals (8-8) finished the season with two straight losses.
The Baltimore Ravens (11-5) took the top wild-card seed in the AFC with their 38-3 road romp against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens will play the early Sunday game against the Tennessee Titans (11-5), who won the AFC South thanks to a wild 41-38 road victory against the Houston Texans in which Derrick Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
The Titans knew they owned a playoff berth after the Miami Dolphins (10-6) lost 56-26 to the host Buffalo Bills, the AFC East champs. The Indianapolis Colts (11-5) then ended the Dolphins' chances when they took care of the Jacksonville Jaguars, 28-14.
The Colts, coached by Frank Reich, will kick off the playoffs Saturday at Buffalo in an intriguing matchup: In January 1992, Reich filled in as Buffalo's quarterback and led the Bills to the NFL's biggest comeback victory, 41-38 in overtime against the Houston Oilers — who are now the Titans.
With the win, the Bills (13-3) clinched the AFC's No. 2 playoff seed and matched a single-season record for victories, set in both 1990 and '91, when they made their first of four straight Super Bowl appearances, all of them losses.
The Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) lost their regular-season finale, not that it mattered much to the AFC West winners. They have their conference's lone bye in these expanded playoffs, giving them a chance to rest before they make the push to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
The Dallas Cowboys were done after a 23-19 defeat at the hands of the New York Giants (6-10), who held on to hope of becoming the first six-win team to make the playoffs from a 16-game schedule, but when Washington knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, it earned the right to host six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady and Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Not making the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season are the New England Patriots (7-9). Of course, the main player responsible for that run of success, including nine Super Bowl trips, was Brady — who is in the playoffs, just elsewhere.
All times Eastern; Green Bay Packers (NFC) and Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) have first-round byes as No. 1 seeds.
Saturday, Jan. 9
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills, 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
L.A. Rams at Seattle Seahawks, 4:40 p.m. (Fox)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington, 8:15 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Jan. 10
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 1:05 p.m. (ABC)
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints, 4:40 p.m. (NBC)
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m. (NBC)