Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Team Preview
2017 Record: 0-16
2017 ATS: 4-12
2017 Over/Under: 7-9
2018 Regular Season Wins Total: 6
One of the worst teams in the modern era, the 2017 Cleveland Browns was a model of ineptitude. They failed to win a single game, covered only four point spreads, were outscored by 176 points, and managed a harrowing -28 turnover ratio. Head coach Hue Jackson, who they amazingly retained, now sits at 1-31. Yet what I remember most about the Browns’ season was the “sharp” money they took on seemingly a weekly basis the back half of the season. Bettors tried to cling to some of the defense’s above average stats (5.1 ypp allowed, 12th; 328 ypg allowed, 14th) but it ended up being an exercise in futility as the Browns covered only two of their last eight games. Now dubbed “Believeland”, bettors are once again clamoring to be a part of the projected turnaround. Their season over/under win total has been played up to as high as six and they’ve taken most of the money (+6.5 to +5.5) for Week 1’s matchup vs. Pittsburgh.
A slew of changes took place during the offseason. The first of which was the hiring of general manager John Dorsey; the organization’s fifth GM since 2010. The old Browns certainly excelled at stockpiling draft assets but it will be Dorsey’s job to better identify talent. On the field, the first task was to shore up an offense that turned the ball over a league-high 41 times. They went out and got one of the least-turnover prone quarterbacks in the league in Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor. Taylor averaged only seven turnovers per season from 2015-17 and last year his interception rate was second to only New England’s Tom Brady. Taylor has a ceiling but his leadership and work ethic will have a positive impact. Behind him is top pick and projected long term solution Baker Mayfield. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry and his NFL-leading 112 catches was also brought in. Landry’s analytics don’t quite match his contract value but he’s an obvious upgrade. So too is running back Carlos Hyde. And if the Browns can somehow get double-digit games out of Josh Gordon, the offense possesses solid upside. The offensive line did lose Joe Thomas but without him, the unit should still perform at a league-average level. Ironically, the biggest question mark on offense has nothing to do with personnel but rather the hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Haley had an embarrassment of riches in Pittsburgh but routinely butted heads with management and the players.
Talent-wise, the defense is a top-10 unit. Defensive lineman Myles Garrett is one of the league’s best and played in just 11 games. Linebacker Jamie Collins also has big upside but he disappointed in six games last year before giving way to a knee injury. The secondary also looks strong on paper with fourth overall draft choice Denzel Ward, Jabrill Peppers moving to his correct position of strong safety, and the acquisition of Damarious Randall. Like Haley, I do have concerns about what defensive coordinator Gregg Williams does with his weaponry. The pass defense surrendered 28 touchdowns through the air as Williams appeared behind the times when it came to stopping modern NFL passing attacks.
From a long term perspective, the best scenario for the Browns is to fall flat once again so they can gut the coaching staff and eye a 2019 playoff berth. In the meantime, I project this year’s squad to play conservative and grind out six or seven wins. What kept me from betting Cleveland’s win total over, however, was a coaching staff that is bound to have a significant hand in multiple losses. Bettors should keep an eye on Cleveland’s pass defense the first two games of the season with stern tests against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans’ Drew Brees. If the defense can pass both or even one of these tests, it should translate well for a potential winning season. Also target a play on the Browns in a very favorable Week 3 matchup vs. the New York Jets. With the offseason influx of talent, it will mark the first time in years they’ll have a sizable personnel advantage over an opponent.
Professional sports bettor Erin Rynning has a proven long term track record of 57% winners in the NFL dating back to 2012. Subscribe to get access to ER’s plays and premium content.