Why Browns can make the playoffs

The Cleveland Browns defense, led by cornerback Joe Haden, is solid across the board. David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns were considered an NFL cornerstone franchise when they qualified for the postseason 19 times between 1946 and 1972, but that status has diminished now that the club has gone 10 straight years without reaching the playoffs.

That kind of drought is not a positive thing for the team or the league, but there looks to be some good news on the horizon as this season offers a high-percentage path for Cleveland to finally find its way back into postseason play.

There are four elements responsible for paving that path.

Elite defense

It is not a stretch to say that the Browns have an elite-caliber defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this platoon ranks first in yards per play (4.51), second in net yards per pass attempt (5.58), fourth in yards per rush (3.56), fifth in yards per game (315.7), sixth in rush yards per game (98.22), ninth in sacks per pass attempt (8.8 percent) and 10th in pass yards per game (217.44).

The metrics also indicate Cleveland has not one, but two dominant coverage cornerbacks. Joe Haden, who recently placed fourth on Herm Edwards' list of the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL, has a route-depth metric chart that indicates zero coverage weaknesses: