The Cleveland Browns were originally a member of the All-American Football Conference, winning that league’s title in its last four years of operation. When the AAFC folded in 1949, they opted to join the NFL, and promptly won the title in their new league. After the 1995 season, the team was famously moved to Baltimore and renamed the Ravens. They did keep the rights to the team name and logos though, and in 1999 Cleveland was awarded an expansion team and the Browns were back!
After reaching the league championship game in their first six seasons and winning three, the Browns would struggle to reach such heights again as the years went on. After winning another title in 1964 and having a handful of playoff appearances in the subsequent couple decades, it has now been since 1989 since they won the division and have only appeared in the playoffs two times in the past 30 seasons.
Previously members of the Western Division of the AAFC, the American, Eastern and Century divisions of the NFL, and the AFC Central (both as the original Browns and the expansion team), they now reside in the AFC North. Although they haven’t ever won the division, they did appear in the playoffs in 2002 as a wildcard.
Current owners, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, bought the team in 2012 for $1 billion. Haslam had previously held a small stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming over from the world of Major League Baseball, the team President is Paul DePodesta. Andrew Berry will begin his first year as General Manager, and in fact, at age 32 is the youngest GM in the league.
After the firing of Freddie Kitchens following a 6-10 season, the Browns enter 2020 with first time head coach Kevin Stefanski at the helm. He was previously the offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings. In fact, this year will see a completely new coaching staff with Alex Van Pelt as offensive coordinator and Joe Woods running the defense. Stefanski will still call the plays.
With a rich history of early success, the Browns make up an important part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Early Browns such as coach Paul Brown, quarterback Otto Graham, and one of the all-time greats, running back Jim Brown were all enshrined within the first dozen years of the opening of Canton. More recently, star tight end turned front office executive Ozzie Newsome was inducted. He famously brought the original franchise two super bowl titles, albeit, not until they relocated to Baltimore to become the Ravens.
Even after a disappointing season, the Browns roster was in pretty good shape, leaving them with some very targeted needs for the draft. They addressed the offensive line immediately by drafting stand-out Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills with the 10th overall selection. They then concentrated mainly on defense, grabbing a safety, defensive tackle and a linebacker with their subsequent picks.
The team will be led by third year quarterback Baker Mayfield and Pro Bowl receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The offensive line will be bookended by some new faces: previously mentioned rookie Wills and free agent signing Jack Conklin. Miles Garrett is back off his suspension and will lead the defense as a disruptive edge rusher.
DraftKings sportsbook has the Browns right in the middle of the pack with 40/1 odds to win their first Super Bowl this season. They are 18/1 to win the AFC title and third favorites to win their division at +550. Although they are a bit of a long shot to even get a division title, the market does see them likely to have a winning season in 2020 with a win total of 8.5, the over priced to -121, the under +100.
Cleveland Browns Betting Preview
After heading into the season as one of the most hyped teams in the NFL and ranked as one of the favorites (yes, favorites) to win the 2020 Super Bowl, the Browns once again let down Cleveland fans and sports betters and stumbled to just six wins. Head coach Freddie Kitchens was fired, and the reset button was pressed once again for the Browns, who hope a year after winning the offseason they will start to see returns where it counts: the win column.
Key Offseason Moves:
• OT Jedrick Wills (Drafted 10th overall)
• S Grant Delpit (Drafted 44th overall)
• OL Jack Conklin (Signed for three years, $42 million)
• TE Austin Hooper (Signed for four years, $42 million)
While last season was about making the big splashes for the Browns — doubling and tripling down on strengths and acquiring big names like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry — the 2020 offseason was about filling holes. First round pick Wills and free agent Conklin addressed the biggest area of need for Cleveland, the offensive line, as the Browns continually let pressure come in off the edge last season and Baker Mayfield’s sack totals rose from 25 to 40 from his rookie to sophomore season.
In Delpit, the Browns got one of the best defensive backs in the draft class who many thought would go at the end of the first round, and Hooper was brought in to deepen the red zone attack. With Hooper’s acquisition home grown tight end David Njoku was bumped to second string duties after a disappointing first few season in the NFL — the Miami product started in only four games last year and racked up just 40 yards.
• LB Joe Schobert (Signed in Jacksonville)
• S Morgan Burnett (Currently a free agent)
• S Damarious Randall (Currently a free agent)
While the loss of Schobert will be felt at the second level, the Browns acquired capable replacements for their departing safeties in Delpit and a recent trade for Ronnie Harrison (acquired from the Jaguars in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick).
Top Three Players:
• QB Baker Mayfield
• WR Odell Beckham Jr.
• EDGE Myles Garrett
After a sophomore slump filled with sacks, interceptions and Progressive insurance commercials, Mayfield provides some of the best value in the league for MVP bets. The Oklahoma product is 11th in the league in MVP odds (+2900), behind Kyler Murray and Tom Brady. Mayfield’s completion percentage fell four points in 2020, and he threw five less touchdowns (despite a far more dynamic offense) but the biggest issue for the Browns play caller was a significant rise in interceptions (21 in 2020) and interception percentage (from 2.9 to 3.9%). Things clearly didn’t work out under one-year head coach Kitchens, but the Browns offense certainly has the talent for new offensive coach Kevin Stefanski to unlock Mayfield’s elite level. One prop to keep an eye on for betters is Mayfield’s yardage total, set at 3899 yards — while the Browns have solid ground game weapons, Mayfield was only 70 yards shy of breaking that mark last year despite struggling.
Tied to Mayfield’s (and the new coaching staff’s) success will be the production of Beckham Jr. The former Giants wide receiver gave Browns fans the entire Odell experience (both on and off the field) last year, snagging 74 passes for 1035 yards but just four touchdowns. I would stay away from Beckham Jr.’s yardage total this season (set at O/U 1049.5) because his production is largely unpredictable given the other offensive weapons on the team.
On the defensive side of the ball is perhaps the Browns’ most polarizing player (maybe even more polarizing than Odell?) given an on field incident involving a helmet and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s head — Myles Garrett. The former first round pick has posted 30.5 sacks in his first three seasons, including 10 in 10 games last season, and will be vital for the Browns success. If Garrett is able to take his game to another level — and flirt with a 16, 17, 18 sack season — the pressure will solely be on Stefanski, Mayfield, and the Browns offense to propel the team to a long awaited playoff appearance. The former Texas A+M rusher provides one of the best award prop values on the team, at +1800, Garrett is the sixth favorite to win AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Team Win Total: 8.5
Given the expectations for the 2019 Browns, seeing just a 8.5 win over/under in 2020 should be an automatic over bet, right? Wrong. The Browns hype was proven to be largely unfounded last year, and while they have addressed some of their biggest holes (at head coach and on the offensive line) the strength of the AFC North, which now boasts a healthy Big Ben, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow, will make it tough for the Browns to crack 9 wins.
Odds to win Division: +480
The Browns trail both the Steelers and division favorite Baltimore Ravens (-200) in the AFC North champion odds (ahead of only the Bengals) and I expect them to finish third in the division. The biggest question becomes if third in a strong AFC North is enough to make the playoffs, where an added seventh postseason slot in each conference make a 9-7 record a viable playoff team.
Odds to Win Super Bowl: +3400
Last year the Browns were well within the top 10 Super Bowl favorites, but this year they sit worse odds than the Bills, Titans, Patriots. It is hard to look at Super Bowl odds and realistically see some of the lower teams winning the title, but for teams like the Browns (a mid-pack, fringe playoff fringe squads) it is important to look at value, and at +3400, the 2020 Browns provide that. Cleveland won’t be winning the Super Bowl this year, but given their elite talent with Mayfield, Odell, and a solid defense, they have the ceiling to go on a run, which many teams with comparable odds simply do not have.
8-8, Third in the AFC North, Miss the Playoffs