Buying the Browns
August 9, 2016
By Micah Roberts
Are the Cleveland Browns really the worst team in the NFL?
If looking at odds board all along the Las Vegas strip, the answer is yes. And there's lots of recent history to support the notion.
The Browns haven't had a winning record since 2007 (10-6) and they haven't made the playoffs since losing a Wild Card game in 2002. They come off an awful 3-13 season finishing dead last in the AFC North for the fifth consecutive year.
So it's not hard to understand why the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has them listed as the longest shot to win the Super Bowl at 200/1 -- double the next longest odds -- and also the lowest season win total at 4.5 (Over -155) -- the next lowest is Tennessee and San Francisco at 5.5 victories.
The crew at the CG Technology sport book hub office inside M Resort also don't have a high rating on the 2016 version of the Browns. They posted the first 16 weeks of spreads for every team in April and the Browns weren't favored in any of them. Not even one home game. The smallest spread placed upon them is a Week 16 game where the Chargers are 2-point road favorites.
CG has the Browns as their lowest rated team, just a point worse than Tennessee who are 3.5-point favorites in a Week 6 matchup in Nashville. If going by last year's awful numbers, the rating is hard to argue against as their average score was 17-27. They couldn't stop the run or pass on defense and their offense was almost as bad.
But action for Week 1 has actually come in on the Browns.
"One of the biggest moves we've had in Week 1 has seen the Browns drop from +8.5 to +6.5 at Philadelphia," said CG Technology's VP of risk management Jason Simbal. "But I don't think those wagers on the Browns were necessarily because of bettors liking them as much as they don't like the Eagles. There's a lot of anti-Eagles sentiment with smart money. One (respected) bettor bet against the Eagles in 13 of their 16 games we have have posted. And it doesn't just stop there with weekly games.
To make the playoffs, the NO on Philly opened -170 and it's now -240 and the season win total went from 7.5 UNDER -115 to -155."
As for the Browns, Simbal said they have seen action on them to win the AFC North with the number dropping from 35/1 down to 20/1 odds, citing a lot of small action with the largest wager being $200 at 30/1. But bettors also laid -1000 for Cleveland not to make the playoffs (again) and it's now -1200 with the YES at +750.
The Westgate also has seen some action on the Browns to win the division where its odds have dropped from 35/1 down to 25/1. Pittsburgh is the 6/5 favorite, followed by last years division winner Cincinnati at 3/2 and Baltimore at 7/2. Just like CG, the action has been small, but the risk builds up quickly at large numbers like that.
Could there just be some sentimental believing in Believe-land lately with the Cavs winning a title in the city for the first time since 1964 and the first-place Indians looking at a postseason birth? Is it possible the winning vibe soaking up the city could help the initial mindset of the Browns?
One thing for sure is this years Browns have a much different look than 2015. They have a new head coach, the offensive-minded Hue Jackson, and they also got a new QB in Robert Griffin III, who was just named the starter on Monday.
Rookie first-round pick Corey Coleman out of Baylor has been impressing in camp to the point he's been listed as the starter along side converted QB Terrell Pryor who is proving to have great hands and has been a beast to cover. Griffin's Baylor teammate, WR Josh Gordon, will also be back after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. All-Pro CB Joe Haden, who only played five games last season, has been cleared to practice and will be ready for Week 1 at Philadelphia.
"I think they have a good infrastructure in place with Hue Jackson and an improved roster to be good, or at least better than expected," Simbal said.
Obviously the key is Griffin at QB. The Browns will only go as far as he can take them and the hope is that he'll be healthy enough to have a re-birth in Cleveland after being immature at times and showing a lack of leadership in Washington that helped make the decision to bench him easy. Sometimes a change of scenery is the best thing that can happen to a player and Griffin is still young and athletic enough to make special plays. In 1980 the Oakland Raiders were coming off two straight seasons of not making the playoffs and former Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett led the them to a Super Bowl win when getting his chance to start again.
"Throughout the offseason program and training camp, Robert (Griffin) has shown improvement every day," Hue Jackson said in a press release Monday, "and we expect him to continue to ascend as he becomes more and more acclimated to the offensive system we will employ this season. I've been crystal clear on what we expect from Robert. He fully understands the responsibility and I feel he is ready to handle this role."
I'm looking for Griffin to be better than most are expecting and I also expect the team to get better along the way. They play six of their last nine games at home and could be vying for a playoff position, or dare I say, a division title.
I'm believing in Cleveland this season which has me thinking 9-7 is a strong possibility making all their final six home games currently posted at CG having nice value, as well as OVER 4.5 wins.
Getting +4 against the Jets in Week 8 is attractive, so is +5 against Dallas in Week 9, +8.5 against Pittsburgh in Week 11, +3.5 against the Giants in Week 12, +7.5 against Cincinnati in Week 14 and +2 against the Chargers in Week 16. They should have the most rapidly adjusted rating by Week 7 when things start to really jell.
Still, it's hard to change old habits and grasp reality sometimes. Cleveland has averaged only 4.6 wins a year the past eight seasons. I could be way off, but I'm definitely a believer this year.
Here's a look at all the updated CG Technology NFL spreads for Week 1 through Week 16.
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