2018 Cleveland Browns Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
It seems laughable now, but this time last year there was actually a sense around the Cleveland Browns organization that the team was headed in the right direction and things were going to be better in 2017.
After all, the Browns had avoided 0-16 infamy the year before with a Week 16 home upset of the Chargers and then nearly won in Pittsburgh in Week 17. Most experts lauded the Browns' 2017 draft haul, led by No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett (defensive end from Texas A&M), No. 25 overall pick Jabrill Peppers (defensive back from Michigan), No. 29 overall pick David Njoku (tight end from Miami, Fla.) and No. 52 overall pick DeShone Kizer (quarterback from Notre Dame).
Garrett clearly had the best overall grade of any draft player and Kizer was projected by some as a first-round talent. Hey, the Browns even went 4-0 in the 2017 preseason. Factory of Sadness no longer!
We all know what happened.
Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to finish 0-16, with the Browns outscored by 176 points. Was Cleveland really that bad? Probably not as it could have won a handful of games, but turnovers killed the team - it was minus-28, by far the worst plus/minus TO margin in the NFL.
It proved yet again that no matter what kind of possible talent you have everywhere on the field, if your quarterback sucks then your team does too. Kizer may never start another game in his career as he was shipped off to Green Bay to battle for the backup job to Aaron Rodgers. Coach Hue Jackson, somehow, is still around despite that 1-32 record. At 5Dimes, he is the +350 favorite to be the first coach fired, but, hey, you can also get him at +4000 to win AP Coach of the Year. If you are wondering, the site also offers a prop on whether Cleveland goes 0-16 again: +1600. That it wins or ties at least one game is -4800. The Browns aren't going 0-16 again, and this writer does think things finally are starting to look up. Baker Mayfield might be legit but still isn't starting Week 1 unless Tyrod Taylor is hurt.
The Browns were obviously 0-8 on the road last year, 2-6 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." Cleveland travels to a pair of playoff teams from 2017: New Orleans and Pittsburgh. The home slate looks considerably tougher. I project a 1-7 road mark. Progress! Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 16 at Saints (-10): Browns off their home opener vs. the Steelers. Could be Cleveland's only true indoor game, although Houston never seems to open its roof. The Browns lead the all-time series 13-4 and have taken the past two. This should be the Cleveland franchise's last-ever game against Drew Brees. Key trend: Browns 0-10 SU & 5-5 ATS in past 10 as September double-digit dog.
Sept. 30 at Raiders (-7.5): Speaking of last, could be Cleveland's final visit to Oakland depending on where the teams finish in their divisions this season. The Browns are 10-12 in the series and lost the last matchup 27-20 in September 2015. Remember those Jon Gruden to Browns rumors? Key trend: Browns 4-1-1 ATS in Oakland this century.
Oct. 21 at Bucs (-5.5): Might have liked this for a Browns upset had it been in the first three games of the year with Jameis Winston suspended. But we may get Mayfield vs. Winston in a matchup of former No. 1 overall picks and Heisman winners. Cleveland leads the series 6-3 and won the last meeting in 2014, 22-17. Key trend: Browns 5-3 ATS at NFC South foes.
Oct. 28 at Steelers (-10.5): The last two years the Browns didn't see many Pittsburgh starters in Steel Town because it was the season finale and the Steelers had no reason to care. It was 28-24 last year for that 0-16 infamy. The Browns had a chance late, but Kizer's fourth-down pass to Corey Coleman bounced off Coleman's hands and fell incomplete. Of course it did. He was recently traded to Buffalo. Key trend: Browns 3-4 ATS as double-digit road dog in series.
Nov. 25 at Bengals (-5): Look, I know that Cincinnati has totally dominated this series of late - the Browns have lost seven straight since by a combined score of 213-63 -- but I like Cleveland's chances here as it is off its bye week, and the Bengals will be playing a very physical game the week before in Baltimore. Key trend: Browns 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 2 at Houston (-10): Mayfield vs. Deshaun Watson? Those two met in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Orange Bowl following the 2015 season with Watson's Clemson Tigers routing Mayfield's Oklahoma Sooners 37-17. Mayfield was beaten to a pulp in that one. The Browns could have taken Watson twice in the 2017 draft. He made them pay in Week 6 last year in Houston as the Texans rolled 33-17. Kevin Hogan started at QB for the Brownies. Key trend: Browns 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC South foes.
Dec. 15 at Broncos (-5.5): Cleveland is just 5-10 in this series and hasn't beaten Denver, rather amazingly, since the Browns returned to the NFL. Their last win there was Oct. 8, 1990. It was a close 26-23 loss in the most recent meeting three years ago. Key trend: Browns 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC West foes.
Dec. 30 at Ravens (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 lines. The Browns will close the season in Baltimore, marking the third such time since 1999 and first since 2014 they end the year against the Ravens. Cleveland's only win in the past eight in this series was behind a record-setting day from Josh McCown in Baltimore in 2015. Last year, the Browns lost there 24-10 in Week 2. Key trend: Browns 5-5 ATS in past 10 at Ravens.
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