CLEVELAND — Chris McNeil’s earliest memory of being at a Cleveland Browns game goes back to 1987. McNeil was 7 years old. The Browns trailed the Jets by 10 with just four minutes remaining in the AFC divisional playoffs. “But I’m standing up on my chair,” McNeil recalls, “yelling, ‘We’re going to win!'”

Sure enough, Bernie Kosar engineered a pair of dramatic late scoring drives, and Cleveland prevailed in double overtime in the third-longest game in NFL history — the “Marathon by the Lake” — for its first playoff victory since 1969. McNeil, there with his parents and uncle, watching from around a beam blocking his view, was hooked.

“That magic has never left for me, even as the team left, even as the team has scuffled,” McNeil said. “I always go back to that 7-year-old me, standing on the chair at old Municipal — and we’ve been chasing that magic ever since.”

Tonight, 50 years after staging the first Monday Night Football game in history, the Browns face off against their former selves, the Baltimore Ravens, in the biggest regular-season game Cleveland has seen in decades (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Twenty-five years ago to the week, the former Browns played their final game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium before owner Art Modell shuttered the Dawg Pound and shattered Cleveland’s soul, relocating the franchise to Baltimore.

Cleveland football eventually came back. But the Browns have yet to recover.

Until — potentially, finally, mercifully — now?

Going into this showdown with the Ravens, Cleveland boasts its best record (9-3) since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Browns technically can’t clinch a playoff spot with a victory. They can, however, all but ensure an end to the NFL’s longest postseason drought — while, as a cathartic bonus, dimming the playoff chances of an entity at the root of much heartache by the lake.

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