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There hasn’t been optimism like this in the city of Cleveland in seemingly forever. The 2019-20 Cleveland Browns are expected to be a bona fide contender to win Super Bowl LIV. At least that’s what current futures odds state with Cleveland offering up a 14-1 return to win the Super Bowl and 7-1 return should it win the AFC. That’s something most NFL bettors never would’ve expected following the 2016-17 season in which the Hue Jackson led Browns won a grand total of one game. General Manager John Dorsey finally showed Jackson the door last season and the Browns seemingly took off from there winning five of their last seven games both straight up and against the spread to log a 7-8-1 and 10-6 records respectively. Upper management continued to improve the roster in the offseason to the point that they are the current odds on +127 favorites to win the AFC North for the first time in franchise history.
Thursday November 20, 2018. That’s the date that could go down in Cleveland Browns lore as when the franchise rose from the ashes and completely turned itself around. It just so happens to be the time the training wheels were taken off Baker Mayfield and the former Heisman Trophy winner was allowed to strut his stuff at the NFL level. The Browns came back from a 14-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Jets 21-17 and cover the closing 3-point spread. Though he didn’t throw for any touchdowns, his appearance on the field under center and on the sideline seemed to flip a switch for the rest of his teammates. The team carried that moxie the remainder of the regular season, and it’s headed into 2019-20 at terminal velocity. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. into the mix on offense that already includes Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson will no doubt have the Browns offense very popular with fantasy footballers throughout the season.
Defensively, there is still room for improvement even with the additions made on that side of the ball throughout the offseason. The subtraction of Jabrill Peppers and addition of Greedy Williams through the draft could be considered a wash, but the latter still might prove to be the better NFL talent. Myles Garrett is one of the best pass rushing specimens the league currently has to offer, but he needs someone else to step up on the line in order to prevent opposing offenses from double and triple teaming him all the time. The hope is that veteran pass rush specialist Sheldon Richardson can morph back into the sack master he once was from his early days with the Jets. Most importantly, the Browns defense must start doing a much better job of limiting opposing ground attacks after giving up over 135.0 yards per game a season ago. If they can’t improve their No. 28 ranking from a season ago, there’s no way Cleveland lives up to the lofty expectations currently bestowed upon them.
Regardless of whether the defense ultimately turns things around under the watch of Steve Wilks who swung and missed terribly in the desert last season, the Browns are still going to be one of the more popular bets at offshore sportsbooks over the course of the regular season; and likely beyond. While surprising to see them favored ahead of both the Ravens and Steelers to win the division, this team looks to be every bit as good as the roster suggests. Now it’s all a matter of making it all come together. With that, it hardly comes as a shock to see this year’s win total checking in at 9 with juice attached to the over after closing at 7 just last season. If they surpass it, the Dawg Pound will be rocking in 2019!