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Cleveland Browns schedule preview: Weeks 14–17

San Francisco at Cleveland: Week 14 – Dec. 13

Additions: WR Torrey Smith, DT Darnell Dockett, LB Nick Bellore, OL Erik Pears, CB Shareece Wright

Subtractions: LB Patrick Willis, LB Chris Borland, RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree, OL Mike Iupati, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Chris Culliver, CB Perrish Cox, OL Jonathan Martin, QB Josh Johnson

History: The Browns hold an 11-7 advantage in the all-time series, including a 6-2 mark in Cleveland.

What happened last time: The 49ers prevailed in San Francisco, 20-10, behind 134 rushing yards from Gore. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy connected with Josh Cribbs on a gorgeous 45-yard touchdown, but it wasn't enough back in 2011.

Notable: 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini was the head coach of the Browns from 2009-10. Browns Pro Bowler Donte Whitner played three seasons with the 49ers, appearing in one Super Bowl. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a career-high 10 interceptions last season. 49ers kicker Phil Dawson spent 14 seasons with the Browns (1999-2012), tied for the second-most consecutive seasons any player has spent with the club. Dawson holds the team record for career field goals (305) and is second all-time in scoring ((1,271).

Storyline to watch: The argument can be made no NFL team lost more this offseason than the 49ers. A likely Hall of Famer in Willis is removed from the middle of the defense along with two starting-caliber cornerbacks in Culliver and Cox. The sudden retirement from the 24-year-old Borland, who was considered a prime building block of San Francisco's future, sent shockwaves through the league. Gore could emerge as the piece that puts the Colts over the top and into the Super Bowl. And criticize Crabtree all you want, but when the 49ers' offense was clicking in 2012, the wide receiver had 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. If Kaepernick is able to lead this depleted roster to the playoffs, MVP considerations could be on deck.

Cleveland at Seattle: Week 15 – December 20

Additions: TE Jimmy Graham, CB Corey Graham, CB Will Blackmon, NT Ahtyba Rubin 

Subtractions: G James Carpenter, SS Jeron Johnson, CB Byron Maxwell, DE

O'Brien Schofield, OLB Malcolm Smith  

History: Seahawks lead the all-time series 11-6, but the Browns have won the last two meetings.

What happened last year/time they played: Cleveland won, 6-3, behind two Phil Dawson field goals and 95 yards rushing from Montario Hardesty back in 2011.

Notable: Rubin's 100 career games with the Browns in seven seasons are the ninth most since the team returned in 1999. The Browns will have to play Graham for a second straight season, a year after the tight end posted a season-high 118 yards and two touchdowns in Cleveland with the Saints. Quarterback Russell Wilson rushed for 849 yards in 2014, a total that would have led the Browns. 

Storyline to watch: The Cleveland Browns secondary didn't keep it a secret: They want to be known as the best unit in the entire league, and they believe they are closing the gap on the Seahawks. Last season, Pro Bowlers Joe Haden, Donte Whitner, Tashaun Gipson and the rest of the defensive backs classroom would watch film cut-ups of the Seahawks and analyze statistics that compared and contrasted each team's styles. You better believe there will be extra pride on the line this week for Cleveland's secondary to shut down Wilson and the Seahawks passing attack.

Cleveland at Kansas City, Week 16, Dec. 27

Key Additions: WR Jeremy Maclin, S Tyvon Branch, OL Paul Fanaika

Key Subtractions: C Rodney Hudson, WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Anthony Fasano, DL Vance Walker

History: The Chiefs and Browns are all square at 11-11-2

What happened last time: The Browns gave the undefeated Chiefs all they could handle in a 23-17 loss at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 27, 2013. Kansas City moved to 8-0 with the win.

Notable: In the Browns' last four wins over the Chiefs, they scored at least 30 points.

Storyline: Two franchises known for their die-hard fan bases are entering 2015 with playoff aspirations after coming up a little short the previous season. The Chiefs have undergone minimal turnover throughout the offseason but have a new look at wide receiver now that Bowe is with the Browns and Maclin is on their side after signing a lucrative free agent contract. How the Browns' oft-maligned run defense is able to contain All-Pro Jamaal Charles could go a long way toward determining this meeting's outcome.

Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland: Week 17, Jan. 3

Key Additions: RB DeAngelo Williams, QB Tajh Boyd, LB Shayon Green

Key Subtractions: OLB Jason Worilds, CB Brice McCain, DE Brett Keisel, DB Troy Palomalu, DB Ike Taylor

History: Steelers hold a 66-58 advantage in regular-season matchups

What happened last year: The Browns and Steelers split their two games in 2014. A big Browns comeback came up short in a Week 1 loss at Pittsburgh while a rally wasn't necessary in Cleveland's 31-10 victory over the Steelers on Oct. 12 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Notable: The Browns' 21-point margin of victory in last year's home rout was the team's largest since 1989, when it beat Pittsburgh, 51-0.

Storyline: The Browns haven't beaten the Steelers in consecutive seasons since 1999-2000. To accomplish what they'd like in 2015 and put another check mark on its to-do list, Cleveland will seek to finish .500 or better in one of the NFL's toughest divisions. To do that, it will have to overcome a Pittsburgh offense that is primed to be one of the most potent of the Mike Tomlin era. The Browns secondary, which is considered one of the best in the NFL, won't face a better wide receiver tandem in the division than Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

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