NFL Win Totals: Should Bettors Expect the Browns to Meet High Expectations?

Credit:

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield

Aug 18, 2019, 11:30 AM EDT
  • The Cleveland Browns win total for the 2019 season is 9 games, a three game increase from the team's 2018 win total.
  • Using historical data, we analyze how NFL teams have performed for bettors following a large win total increase.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002 and have only one winning season in the past 16 years. But expectations are high in Cleveland ahead of the 2019 season.

For starters, Hue Jackson is gone. The former coach compiled a 3-36-1 record including the embarrassing 0-16 campaign in 2017. After Jackson was canned the Browns finished last season winning five of seven games.

Cleveland also made the biggest trade this offseason acquiring star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The team now boasts an offensive core that includes OBJ, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry and David Njoku.

Oddsmakers have taken notice of the changes and listed the Browns win total at nine games. Last season, Cleveland’s win total was six games. The three-game increase is the biggest year-to-year gain from 2018-19.

The Browns will be a popular over bet following their offseason moves and championship potential (16-1 to win Super Bowl 54). But should bettors expect the Browns to go over their win total?

To find out, I pulled win total records from SportsOddsHistory for every NFL team since 2002 — when the league expanded to 32 teams. This gives us a sample of 573 teams.

The first thing to know is that teams don’t often see big changes in their win totals from one season to the next. Since 2002, 363-of-573 (63.4%) teams had a win total that was within one win of the previous season and 463-of-573 (80.8%) teams saw their win total change by less than two games.

Cleveland’s three-game increase is an outlier.

From 2002 to 2018, 246 NFL teams have seen their win total increase by at least a 0.5 game. Of those 246 teams, 112 (47.9%) went over the higher win total. It has not been profitable to blindly bet the over when a team’s win total increases from the previous season.

Bettors might expect the over to be even less profitable the larger the win total increase, but that hasn’t been the case. Since 2002, 56 teams have seen their win total increase by two or more games. Of those squads, 33 (61.1%) went over their win total.

This is a small sample. As a result, it would be unwise to draw significant conclusions from the data.

At the same time, we shouldn’t dismiss this trend completely either. Perhaps the record shows that oddsmakers are able to identify teams that will improve from one season to the next, but don’t go far enough to adjust the win totals for franchise’s expected to make a big leap like the Browns.

Cleveland is one of the most hyped teams in the preseason and the Browns’ three-game win total increase is the largest in the NFL. As a contrarian bettor, my instinct was to take Cleveland’s under, but history suggests there may be some value on the over.

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