Expectations were limited going into the 2017 season for the Cleveland Browns. However, there was some hope that the team could improve off of their 1-15 mark the previous year. In typical Browns fashion, they managed to get worse. Cleveland didn’t win a single game, becoming the second team in NFL history to go 0-16.
For most head coaches, failing to record a single win would result in them getting fired. That wasn’t the case for Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who will be back for his 3rd year on the job. While Jackson was retained, GM Sashi Brown was let go. Jim Dorsey, who did a great job rebuilding the Kansas City Chiefs, was brought in to replace Brown.
Dorsey didn’t waste any time trying to improve the roster for the 2018 campaign. He made numerous trades. Many were getting rid of players to acquire draft picks, but he did manage to add Jarvis Landry (WR), Tyrod Taylor (QB) and Damarious Randall (CB). Some of the top free agent pickups include Carlos Hyde (RB), Terrance Mitchell (CB), T.J. Carrie (CB), E.J. Gaines (CB) and Donald Stephenson (T).
In the NFL Draft the Browns had two more first round selections (3 last year). They used the No. 1 overall pick on Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and fired back with Ohio State corner Denzel Ward at No. 4. They also used 2nd round selections on Nevada tackle Austin Corbett and Georgia running back Nick Chubb.
The Browns traded away the likes of Danny Shelton (DT), DeShone Kizer (QB), Jason McCourty (CB) and Jamar Taylor (CB), but the biggest loss came via retirement when future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas decided to call it quits.
It certainly feels like the Browns have gotten better, but only time will tell how much better they are. With that said, expectations will be limited, which is understandable for a team that’s won just one game the past two seasons.
2018 Browns Schedule & Projected Odds
These are the early odds that were released by Vegas for the Browns. Note that the official lines are only for Weeks 1-16. I went ahead and projected what I feel the line will be for Week 17.
Their projected wins of 5.34 is a combination of their chances of them winning each game based on the spread for that game.
Projected Wins: 5.34
Over/Under Wins Prediction: OVER 5.5
I think it’s safe to say that most will either look to take the UNDER with the Brown’s win total or pass on this prop all together. I’ll gladly go against the public and take my chances on Cleveland finishing 6-10 or better.
How will the Browns improve by 6+ wins in 2018? The thing is they weren’t that far off last year. Cleveland had 6 games decided by 6 points or less (two of those in overtime). They also had two other single digit defeats.
Keep in mind that was with horrible quarterback play. Rookie DeShone Kizer was the primary signal caller (Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler also saw action) and completed just 53.6% of his attempts for 2,894 yards with 11 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. In total the Brown’s quarterbacks posted a miserable 15-28 TD-INT ratio.
It’s assumed that Taylor will be the starter on Opening Day, as they ease Mayfield into the mix. That’s not to say Mayfield can’t win the job over Taylor in training camp. If he does, that’s a good sign of his ability, as they aren’t going to just throw him out there. Taylor completed 62.6% of his attempts for 2,799 yards with a 14-4 TD-INT ratio last year with the Bills. Keep in mind his primary two weapons in the passing game were tight end Charles Clay and running back LeSean McCoy.
Whoever is the quarterback will have all kinds of weapons at their disposal under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Cleveland has a reliable back in Hyde, plus return Duke Johnson and Chubb should factor into the mix as a rookie. The receiving corps will feature Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and Landry, as well as promising second-year tight end David Njoku.
There is still some concern with the defense and how it will hold up, but part of the problem was how anemic the offense was. While Cleveland ranked 31st in points allowed they were a respectable 14th in yards allowed. This unit is better than people think and is now in year two under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
The schedule isn’t a cake walk by any means, as they draw the AFC West and NFC South to go along with cross-division matchups vs the Texans and Jets. Home games against the Jets and Bengals are arguably their two most likely wins, but I’m confident there will be others.
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +9000
Cleveland is getting some respect from the books. More times than not a team that goes 0-16 will go into the next season with the worst Super Bowl odds. That’s not the case. The Browns are at +9000 (90 to 1), which is currently better than 6 teams.
However, I just don’t see the value in betting the Browns to win the Super Bowl. While I’m expecting quite a big improvement this year, I think best-case scenario is 8-8, maybe 9-7 if everything falls into place. That’s likely not enough to even make the playoffs in the AFC, so it really makes no sense to waste your money with this prop.
Odds to Win the AFC: +3000
Same story here with Cleveland and there being no real value in betting them to win the AFC. Nothing is certain in the NFL, but I feel pretty confident predicting the Browns won’t be participating in Super Bowl 53.
It is interesting to note that the Browns are at +4000 to win the AFC, which is the second worst odds behind only the Jets, who are at +4500. The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins, who all have worse odds to win the Super Bowl than Cleveland, all have better odds to win the AFC.
Odds to Win the AFC North: +1000
If you were going to bet any of Cleveland’s future props outside of their win total, this seems like the best option. With that said, it’s definitely a long-shot and one I wouldn’t be willing to take.
I don’t think it’s a stretch that in a ideal scenario the Browns could finish ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North. The problem is they play in the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the heavy favorites to win their third straight division title. The Browns have also lost a ridiculous 17 straight games against division opponents.
For Cleveland to even have a shot, Pittsburgh would have to be hit hard with the injury bug and one of the injuries would have to come early on to star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It’s not out of the question given that Big Ben is getting up there in age, but not something you want to bank on with your hard earned money.