Freedman: 4 Browns Bets I’m Making Now for the 2019 NFL Season
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield
- The Browns have aggressively altered their roster this offseason, most notably trading for WR Odell Beckham Jr.
- Matthew Freedman breaks down the four Browns bets he's making now for the 2019 season, including their win total and division futures.
Since the Super Bowl, the Browns have significantly improved their roster through several transactions.
- Trading for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
- Signing running back Kareem Hunt
- Trading for defensive end Olivier Vernon
- Signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson
The Browns are even rumored to be in the trade market for Chiefs safety Eric Berry.
And today (March 15) news has broken that Hunt, who had a looming suspension hanging over his head, will be available to play in the second half of the season after sitting out the first eight games.
In the wake of all these changes, here are the four Browns bets I’m making right now for the 2019 NFL season.
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Browns to Win AFC North
- Cleveland Browns: +175
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +200
- Baltimore Ravens: +250
- Cincinnati Bengals: +700
With +175 odds, the Browns have a 36.4% implied probability of winning the division, but I think their odds are closer to 40%. Maybe even 45%.
The Steelers have lost wide receiver Antonio Brown, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be 37 years old. Despite having a high-scoring offense, the Steelers missed the playoffs last year at 9-6-1 and have one of the least inspiring Super Bowl-winning head coaches imaginable in Mike Tomlin.
The Ravens will need quarterback Lamar Jackson to develop as a thrower if they hope to win the division. Although I like his long-term upside, Jackson’s performance last year in the playoffs (48.3% completion rate, 194 passing yards) indicates how far away he is from being even a league-average passer.
And while the addition of safety Earl Thomas is positive, the losses of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith and safety Eric Weddle will challenge the defense.
As for the Bengals, new HC Zac Taylor has never even called plays or been a coordinator in the NFL, and the organization had a hard time finding someone to come on board as the defensive coordinator.
With quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals have a past-their-prime combination of players leading the passing game. The Bengals will be lucky not to finish dead last.
The Pick: Browns to win AFC North (+175)
Browns Regular Season Win Total
- Over 9.5: +150
- Under 9.5: -200
After firing HC Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Browns went 5-3 last year with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams serving as the interim HC and running backs coach Freddie Kitchens filling in as the interim OC.
Now Kitchens is the HC.
Given that the Browns won five games in the second half of the year after benching a veteran quarterback early in the season in favor of a rookie and then upending the coaching staff, I like them to win 10.
Kitchens has brought on Todd Monken to serve as the 2019 OC, which is great for the team. A longtime passing game savant in the college ranks, Monken last year for the Buccaneers coordinated an offense that was respectively first, second and third with 5,125 yards passing, 7.7 net yards per attempt and 36 passing touchdowns.
With a full offseason to implement a system, Kitchens and Monken could have one of the best offenses in the league in 2019, especially if quarterback Baker Mayfield builds upon his promising rookie campaign.
And on defense, Kitchens has brought in Steve Wilks as coordinator. Although Wilks disappointed last year as the Cardinals HC, he was a good coordinator for the Panthers in 2017, and before that he was a top-notch defensive backs coach for several teams (Bears, 2006-08; Chargers, 2009-11; Panthers, 2012-16).
Additionally, Wilks was the assistant HC for the Panthers for 2015-17, so he should be able to help Kitchens on an administrative level as a first-year coach.
Given the uncertainty (and projected weakness) in their division, the way they finished the 2018 season and the offseason changes they’ve made, I think the Browns have a great chance to win 10 games.
It helps that outside of their division they’ll get to play against seven teams I think are clearly inferior (2018 records in parentheses).
- Tennessee Titans (9-7)
- Miami Dolphins (7-9)
- Denver Broncos (6-10)
- Buffalo Bills (6-10)
- New York Jets (4-12)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-12)
- Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
Of course, I’m one of the people who invested in the Browns to win the Super Bowl at +3000, so I might already be inclined to be overly bullish on them.
The Pick: Over 9.5 (+150)
Browns to Make the Playoffs
- Yes: +150
- No: -200
If I like the Browns to win 10 games, it makes sense for me to like them to make the playoffs. Over the past three years, all 10-win teams have made the postseason.
And even four teams with nine wins have made the playoffs. If the Browns fall short of their win total, they could still get in as a wildcard or maybe even the rare nine-game division winner.
The Pick: Browns to make the playoffs (+150)
Browns to Win a Playoff Game
- Yes: +400
- No: -700
The Browns haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, when Bill Belichick coached the team.
At +400, they have a 20% implied probability to win a postseason game, but if they actually make the playoffs their true odds of winning a game will be significantly higher at the time. I’d imagine no lower than 35%.
So the real question is whether they’ll make the playoffs.
Given that they have Mayfield at quarterback, OBJ and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver, Hunt and Nick Chubb at running back and David Njoku at tight end, I think they will be able to score enough points on offense to keep them competitive in all their games.
And with Vernon and Richardson joining Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi in the front four, and with cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Damarious Randall and middle linebacker Joe Schobert securing the back half of the unit, the Browns should be strong enough on defense to challenge most offenses.
This is a postseason team.
Long live Sashi Brown.
The Pick: Browns to win a playoff game (+400)