Are you like me and simply can't wait to see the quarterback battle in Cleveland between Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown? I am being sarcastic, although I suppose that makes the Browns one of the more interesting teams of the preseason. They open Thursday night at home against Washington.
As if the Browns weren't dysfunctional enough, you hear reports that the team has considered signing Ray Rice. It's like the club doesn't know what good public relations is, although I do believe it's time for Rice to get a second chance somewhere. Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery was Rice's position coach with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008-2013. The Browns avoided disaster early this week when Joe Thomas suffered a knee injury on Monday, but it's nothing serious. Most consider him the best offensive tackle in football -- the O-Line is actually quite good in Cleveland. It's just the rest of the offense stinks. Thomas has never missed a snap for Cleveland in a regular-season game even though he has had three MCL tears and two high-ankle sprains in his career.
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The Browns were 3-5 on the road last season, a solid 5-2-1 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." Their 2015 road schedule ranks as the fifth-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .559. It's the second-hardest in the AFC North behind Pittsburgh.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds. There are five road games against 2014 playoff teams. I think it's fair to say the Browns will miss the playoffs for a 13th straight season.
Sept. 13 -- at Jets (-3): This line was taken down briefly yesterday with the news that Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith would miss 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw suffered when he was sucker-punched by a teammate. So maybe the Jets are the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL, not the Browns. I'm not sure if it's a good break or bad one that Cleveland won't face the turnover-prone Smith but instead decent veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith reportedly had looked great in camp. Browns have lost two straight in series, last in 2013. They do here -- this looks to really be the Browns' only good chance for a 2015 road win. Key trend: Browns 6-4 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Oct. 4 -- at Chargers (-6): Cleveland is off a Week 3 home game vs. Oakland, while San Diego is in Minnesota the previous Sunday. You heard a few rumors that the Browns were interested in trading for the Chargers' Philip Rivers this offseason, but nothing ever materialized. Cleveland won last meeting, an ugly 7-6 at home in 2012. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC West teams.
Oct. 11 -- at Ravens (-7): Baltimore is off a Week 4 Thursday night game in Pittsburgh. Cleveland ended last season on a five-game losing streak, and the finale of that was Week 17 in Baltimore, a 20-10 defeat. Cleveland led 10-3 entering the fourth quarter but then could do nothing offensively. The Browns started rookie QB Connor Shaw in the game with Manziel and Brian Hoyer (now with Texans) injured. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 1-8 SU as a dog of at least 7 points in series but 7-2 ATS.
Oct. 25 -- at Rams (-6): Cleveland off a Week 6 home game vs. Denver, while St. Louis is off its bye week. Cleveland tried to trade for Rams QB Nick Foles while he was still with Philadelphia. At the start of the 2013 season, Cleveland offered Philly receiver Josh Gordon (suspended for the 2015 season) for Foles. Eagles said no. First meeting since 2011. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 4-4 ATS at NFC West teams.
Nov. 5 -- at Bengals (-6.5): Thursday night game. Cleveland off a home game vs. Arizona in Week 8, while Cincinnati is at Pittsburgh the previous Sunday. The Browns dominated the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 10 last season, 24-3. It was Cleveland's season-high third straight win and snapped its streak of 17 straight losses to division opponents on the road. The Browns held the Bengals to 165 total yards and forced four turnovers. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 6 points in series.
Nov. 15 -- at Steelers (-7.5): This is ahead of Cleveland's bye week. Pittsburgh is off a home game vs. Oakland in Week 9. The Browns lost 30-27 in the Steel City to open last season. Shaun Suisham hit the game-winning 41-yard field goal; he's already out for the 2015 season. The Browns had rallied from a 27-10 third-quarter deficit. Hoyer was 18-for-30 for 222 yards with a TD, and Terrance West rushed for 100 yards. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 1-9 SU (4-6 ATS) in past 10 as road dog of at least 7 points in series.
Dec. 20 -- at Seahawks (-10.5): Huge break between road games for the Browns as following their bye they have a three-game homestand, which concludes Week 14 against San Francisco. Seattle is off a trip to Minnesota. I'm just flat-out calling it right now: Browns don't reach double-digit points in this one unless Seattle is ravaged by injuries. First Cleveland trip to Pacific Northwest since 2003 .Obviously Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 1-9 SU (6-4 ATS) in past 10 as road dog of at least 10 points.
Dec. 27 -- at Chiefs (-5.5): After this one, Cleveland finishes at home vs. Pittsburgh. Kansas City is off a trip to Baltimore. The Chiefs might have extra incentive to beat the Browns. Had Cleveland won in Baltimore to close last season, the Chiefs could have made the playoffs after they beat San Diego. Interesting that this all-time series is tied 11-11-2. First meeting since 23-17 Chiefs home win in 2013. Browns lose this. Key trend: Browns 5-2 ATS in past seven as a road dog of 5.5 points or fewer in December.
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