Cleveland Browns Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 6/13/2014
The Cleveland Browns haven't made the playoffs in 12 years. That's not the longest drought in the NFL as that belongs to Buffalo. But Browns fans would likely be thrilled with even the moderate success the Bills have had the past few years -- i.e. six wins.
Cleveland was 4-12 last year under first-year coach Rob Chudzinski, and there is no second year. Ownership cleaned house -- again -- and owner Jimmy Haslam aimed high -- again -- for a big-name coach. However, it seems like Haslam's very hands-on style is scaring away those top coaches, sort of like Jerry Jones in Dallas. So while we heard rumors of Nick Saban and Jon Gruden, the Browns instead hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, a move that was met with collective yawns all over northeast Ohio. He is the team's fifth head coach since 2008 and the Browns haven't won more than five games in any of those years. The front office also was overhauled.
The Browns made the biggest splash of the draft by trading up late in the first round to take Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel, and already the Browns are trying to protect him from the limelight. For example, the team turned down HBO's offer to appear in "Hard Knocks" and I guarantee you it was largely because of Manziel. You already hear some teammates complain about how much attention the rookie is getting. While Cleveland is likely to struggle again this year, at least the Browns will be interesting whenever Johnny Football finally takes the field.
Probably no team is harder to gauge on this side of the ball because we don't know when Manziel will play or what the status of Josh Gordon, the leading receiver in the NFL last year, will be. Most everyone believes the latter will be suspended the entire season for violating the league's drug policy yet again. Not really sure what the NFL is waiting for and Pettine recently admitted the team is "frustrated" at the delay. Gordon's absence means the Browns likely have the worst group of receivers in the NFL. The top four should be Miles Austin, Earl Bennett, Andrew Hawkins and Nate Burleson. Not a scary bunch. Expect plenty of running with new addition Ben Tate. He always was pretty good in Houston but couldn't stay healthy.
As for Manziel, the Browns continue to tell him to think and act like a backup because Brian Hoyer is the team's starter. The team won Hoyer's three starts last year, although he was knocked out of the third one early with a season-ending injury. Hoyer's 96 passes thrown last season almost doubled his career total heading into 2013 as he previously has been a backup in Arizona and New England. There's obviously no way Hoyer starts all season. I would presume the Browns would want to debut Manziel at home. Perhaps Week 8 against Oakland as the Browns are again home the following week against Tampa. Starting Manziel likely would assure sellouts in those two whereas normally there would be plenty of seats available. For what it's worth, on Thursday Pettine confirmed Hoyer will enter training camp as the Browns' starter, but that he doesn't have an "insurmountable" lead on Manziel.
It's too bad the Browns have so little skill position talent because the offensive line is very good.
Pettine no doubt will have a lot of sway over this unit but Jim O'Neil is the coordinator. He was the linebackers coach in Buffalo under Pettine. Last year Cleveland ranked a solid No. 9 in total defense and but 23rd in points allowed at 24.9 per game. Opponents converted 45 percent of their third downs, which is way too high. Expect a more aggressive approach this season. The Browns lost stud safety T.J. Ward, but they added three good players in linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Justin Gilbert, the team's No. 8 overall pick in May's draft out of Oklahoma State (where many though the Browns would take Manziel). The secondary could be special if Gilbert is as good as advertised because Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden is one of the best in the business. The pass rush needs to improve this year, meaning 2013 first-round pick Barkevious Mingo must make a bigger impact on passing downs from his outside linebacker spot.
2014 Cleveland Browns Schedule Analysis
The Browns are tied with the sixth-easiest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 119-137 last season, a winning percentage of .465. The Browns' home slate (.461) is slightly easier than on the road (.469). Cleveland opens the season at Pittsburgh, where the Browns simply never win. In fact, the Browns have just one victory at Heinz Field since that opened. Pittsburgh is a 6-point favorite. The Steelers swept both games in 2013, which also happens often since Ben Roethlisberger arrived in the NFL. The game in Pittsburgh was Week 17 and the Steelers won 20-7. Jason Campbell started at QB and threw for 240 yards with a TD and pick, but the Browns were all but going through the motions -- their lone TD came with 2:46 left -- while the Steelers were playing for a potential playoff berth (which they didn't get).
In my opinion, Cleveland is looking at a 0-3 start as it then hosts New Orleans and Baltimore before an early Week 4 bye. The first nine games after the bye are when the Browns could make a move. They are: at Tennessee, vs. Pittsburgh, at Jacksonville, vs. Oakland, vs. Tampa Bay, at Cincinnati, vs. Houston, at Atlanta, at Buffalo. The only playoff club in there is the Bengals, while the Jags, Raiders, Bucs, Texans and Falcons were among the worst teams in the NFL last year. Cleveland should be favored for the first time in 2014 in Jacksonville. If not, then certainly the next week at home against Oakland. The final four games are all quite losable for the Browns: vs. Colts, vs. Bengals, at Panthers, at Ravens.
2014 Cleveland Browns Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag. The Browns are +7000 to win the Super Bowl (still shocks me the franchise has never been there), +3000 to win the AFC title and +600 to win the AFC North (long shot). Cleveland's wins total is set at 6.5, with the "over" a -150 favorite. Manziel is a +650 third-favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is +20000 to throw for the most yards in the NFL and +50000 to win MVP. Tate is +6000 to run for the most yards in the league. Gilbert is +1500 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
2014 Cleveland Browns Picks and Predictions
I believe this franchise is half-punting on this season and then really ready to roll in 2015. The Browns could have two very high first-round picks in the draft -- theirs and Buffalo's. Manziel will take his lumps and learn this season. Gordon presumably will be back in 2015. I don't believe any of the props above are worth a bet except obviously the wins. Go "under" there.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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