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Between the Guardians, Browns and Cavs, it's a special time to be a Cleveland sports fan

All three of Cleveland's major sports franchises have bright presents and futures.

CLEVELAND — This past Thursday, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17 to move to 2-1 on the season.

Yet despite the Browns playing on Thursday, Cleveland fans still had plenty to look forward to on Sunday, which happened to be the day that the Guardians clinched their first American League Central Division championship since the 2018 season.

And on Monday, as the Guardians continued celebrating and the Browns looked forward to their Week 4 matchup at the Atlanta Falcons, the Cavaliers held their annual Media Day, marking the unofficial start of the franchise's most highly anticipated season since LeBron James' departure in 2018.

Suffice it to say, it's a special time to be a Cleveland sports fan.

While all three of the city's major professional sports franchises may have reached previous highs individually, never before have all three teams simultaneously possessed such promising presents and futures. With that in mind, let's take a look at where each of the three teams stands during what is arguably an unprecedented time in the Cleveland sports scene.


The present: Despite entering the season with close to 10-1 odds of winning the division, the Guardians locked up the A.L. Central with more than a week remaining in the regular season. With the New York Yankees likely to soon clinch at least the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs, Cleveland will almost assuredly begin the postseason in the Wild Card Round, where it will host the No. 6 seeded wild card team for a three-game series at Progressive Field.

While the Guardians currently possess the 10th best World Series odds at 33-1, Cleveland is arguably baseball's hottest team. Entering their upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays -- a potential playoff opponent -- the Guardians have won 16 of their past 18 games and are coming off consecutive sweeps of the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.

The future: The most impressive part of Cleveland's current season? This wasn't even the year the Guardians were supposed to contend.

While Cleveland began its season by signing third baseman Jose Ramirez to a franchise record contract extension, the Guardians surrounded him with what was ultimately the youngest team in baseball, both when it comes to position players and pitchers. But the emergence of youngsters such as Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez and Josh Naylor -- as well as Triston McKenzie on the pitching staff and one of baseball's best closers in Emmanuel Clase -- has helped propel Cleveland to the postseason ahead of schedule.

While plenty can change on a year-to-year basis in baseball, the Guardians' future is bright. Last month, MLB.com ranked Cleveland's farm system as the third best in all of baseball, with a number of highly touted prospects appearing poised to make an impact at the big league level as soon as next year.


The present: At 2-1 through the first three weeks of the season, the Browns find themselves tied with the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North and firmly in the thick of the playoff picture. Playing in place of Deshaun Watson, who is suspended for the first 11 games of the season after violating the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, Jacoby Brissett has performed like a top 10 quarterback -- yes, you read that correctly -- while Cleveland possesses one of the league's most complete rosters on both sides of the ball.

The Browns' outlook for the 2022 campaign will largely depend on where Brissett is able to guide them for the next eight games and how Watson performs in what will be his first NFL action in nearly two years. The early returns, however, have been promising and have left fans with no shortage of optimism heading into the team's Week 4 matchup in Atlanta.

The future: Of Cleveland's three major sports teams, the Browns are the one most firmly entrenched in their contention window.

Between Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Amari Cooper and Kareem Hunt, Cleveland lays claim to no shortage of Pro Bowl -- and All-Pro -- caliber talent. The Browns also possess plenty of promising young players between David Njoku, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Greg Newsome II, as well as one of the league's best head coach and general manager combinations in Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry.

And then there's Watson, whose acquisition this past offseason was understandably polarizing, even in Cleveland. The 26-year-old's current suspension comes as the result of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault, during his time as a member of the Houston Texans.

But from a pure football perspective, there's no questioning Watson's talent, as he has already established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Having signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract, the Browns are banking on Watson returning to his Pro Bowl form and establishing Cleveland as a consistent contender for the first time since returning to the league in 1999.


The present: Coming off a breakthrough 44-38 season in which they finished eighth in the Eastern Conference before losing to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks in the Play-In Tournament, the Cavs were already prepared to enter the 2022-23 campaign with lofty expectations. Those expectations, however, were only amplified by Cleveland's blockbuster trade to acquire three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz, which elevated the Cavs from a promising young team to a potential Eastern Conference contender.

As of Monday, Cleveland possesses the sixth-best odds (16-1) of winning the Eastern Conference and 13th-best odds (+3060) of winning the NBA title. While President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman stressed at Media Day that this season isn't championship-or-bust, anything less than a playoff run would likely serve as a disappointment in the year ahead.

The future: Much like the Guardians, it's tough to tell where the Cavs' present ends and the future begins. 

In addition to the 26-year-old Mitchell, Cleveland possesses a pair of 2022 All-Stars in point guard Darius Garland and center Jarrett Allen, as well as unanimous NBA All-Rookie first-team selection Evan Mobley -- none of whom are older than 24 years old. What's more is that the Cavs' four-player core is each under team control in Cleveland for at least the next three seasons.

While plenty can change quickly in the NBA, it's hard to feel anything but optimism for the Cavs' future at this point. If nothing else, Cleveland basketball appears to be entering an era not defined by James for the first time in more than 20 years.

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