It seems like a crazy notion, betting on the Cleveland Browns. Not too long ago they became the second team in NFL history to go 0-16 and nearly did it for a second time but managed to squeeze out a single win the year before.
They still haven’t had a winning season since 2007, but the buzz generated off their 7-8-1 finish last season has some fans thinking big. With all the moves they have made in free agency they have more than just a few fans thinking big.
Even the oddsmakers appear to be buying into the Browns.
Back in January when odds were released for Super Bowl LIV, the Browns didn’t have the longest odds like they often have in recent years. But they were not exactly short, either, at +3300 (at BetOnline.ag as of January 16). They were indicative of a team that has improved but still has a long way to go.
Those odds have since dropped to +1600, and with the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. Tuesday, they fell a little further—down to +1000. That put them on par with the Los Angeles Rams and behind only the Saints (+800), Chiefs (+700), and Patriots (+600).
They have since adjusted to +1400 which are the odds the Chicago Bears have as well.
This can’t be right—can it? Could the Cleveland Browns actually be legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2019? We are talking about a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002 or won their division since 1989 (when it was the AFC Central). Since that time, they have finished dead last in the division in 16 of 26 seasons.
Moving from +3300 to +1600 can be attributed to the respect oddsmakers and gamblers had for the progress the Browns made last season along with retaining offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as the new head coach.
So, does that mean Odell Beckham Jr. gets the credit for the jump from +1600 to +1000? Eh—that would be kind of a stretch. But since their odds settled back to +1400 within a day, yes. Teams will be forced to respect OBJ’s presence. That means the pass rush will not be as intense and coverage will be lighter on everyone else.
With the respect teams will have to give the Browns passing game, Nick Chubb should have an easier time finding running lanes, too. Factor in Kareem Hunt (when he becomes eligible) and the Browns run game could be as dangerous as their passing game.
Are they worth betting on yet?
There is bound to be some push back on their odds. Other teams are bound to be stronger as other free agents are signed. But the real concern over betting on the Browns has to be the defense now. They have added a couple of strong players in Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon. But they created a hole at safety and don’t have a first-round pick anymore.
That being said, there is no better time than the present to bet on them. Should they make the necessary additions moving forward, their odds are only going to get shorter.
So, if you trust the front office to do the right thing—bet on them. Winning the Super Bowl will still be an uphill climb, but they have a shot.