Football picksJuly 11, 2021

Betting the Browns to Topple North in 2021: Risk vs. Reward

Cleveland is trending up in a big way this year and betting the Browns to go OVER their win total and even win the Super Bowl are getting major attention with sportsbooks.

betting the browns run game with Nick Chubb

The Browns ranked Top 5 in every major rushing category and with Nick Chubb behind that powerful O-Line, they’re a force to be reckoned with


Betting the Browns Make Playoffs a Pricey Proposition

The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of developing a new identity. The Dawg Pound doesn’t want this edition to veer too far from the scrappy, old school version – and they won’t. But this Browns team wears the underdog collar well. They play the run and gun style of today’s NFL like a champ, and they get results.

Cleveland snuck into the 2020 playoffs by virtue of a Week 17 win over Pittsburgh. They followed it up with a Wild Card road win in the Steel City, 48-37, and anyone other than a diehard fan can accept that as a successful season.

Earlier in the year, Cleveland was blown away by a then-unbeaten Steelers squad, 38-7. It dropped their record to 4-2 but betting the Browns were going to make the playoffs then was still a longshot. Their other loss was 38-6 in Week 1 against Baltimore and if you can’t win in the tough AFC North, what business do you have in the playoffs anyway?

Betting the Browns to make NFL Playoffs in 2021-22 costs -270 with online sportsbooks.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are regular residents and they’ve earned every ticket. Beating up on the sad sack Browns and Bengals team is one thing, but look at their non-divisional records. Each has won 60% of their non-divisional games since 2007, when Mike Tomlin took over in Pittsburgh. Note: John Harbaugh was named head coach for the Ravens in 2008, taking over for Brian Billick.

Odds for betting the browns to win the AFC North division and make playoffs

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Against All Odds

One day before a Week 16 game vs. the Jets, Cleveland released a statement that they had placed wide receivers Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, along with LB Jacob Phillips.

Cleveland had major Covid issues to deal with in December and it severely hampered their offense during a Week 16 loss to the New York Jets. The difference is that most new era Cleveland teams would’ve folded like a cheap tent. This one didn’t. Betting the Browns to win against the spread in Week 17 at Pittsburgh meant laying seven points and they only won by two, but the follow up on Wild Card weekend is all that matters.

Baker Mayfield is now a bonafide NFL starter, coming off his most successful season by far. Mayfield threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, compared to the 35 picks in his first two seasons. The big thing is that seven of his eight INTs were in the first seven weeks of the season.

  • From Week’s 8 through 17, Mayfield tossed 11 TDs and just one interception

Cleveland returns five highly rated offensive linemen from last year, and that will boost confidence in any QBs ability to follow up on a breakout season. Pro Football Focus ranks the Browns O-Line at No. 1 overall, ahead of the Colts and Patriots. Also benefiting from the O-Line, while supplementing Mayfield’s playmaking ability, is the two-headed running attack.  

Nick Chubb missed four games last year and Kareem Hunt stepped in on his way to 1,145 total yards from scrimmage. Chubb led the team in rushing yards with 1,067 and when these two are in the lineup, this offense becomes one of the most opportunistic in the league. Chubb’s rushing totals in the first three-years of his four-year rookie deal are 996, 1,494 and 1,067 yards. He may still end up signing an extension before the season begins but either way, betting the Browns to succeed in 2021 means betting on this dynamic run game to crush.

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Cleveland Browns Odds

I’m tracking NFL offseason betting odds for you throughout the summer. Every time a new team preview is added or the futures market takes a significant swing, I’ll post on social media and you can stay up to date as we countdown to kickoff.

For preseason power rankings and Super Bowl odds, visit my NFL Team Previews HQ!

2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 10.5 OV -120
Pre-draft NFL Win Total Odds: 9.5 OV -150
2020 Record: 11-5
Average Wins 2018-20: 8
Odds to win the Division: +150 (2nd place)
Net Strength of Schedule: 11th easiest  

Second-year HC Kevin Stefanski is the offensive mind behind Cleveland’s leap from pretender to contender. This organization spun its wheels with seven head coaches in the decade before Stefanski’s arrival from Minnesota, and all he did was win 11 games plus a divisional playoff road game. Keys to the city, anyone?

Stefanski is paying back at 13-1 for NFL Coach of the Year behind Brandon Staley (10-1) and Bill Belichick (12-1).

The Browns open the season with a rematch in Kansas City and after that, Mayfield and Stefanski will get a huge opportunity to showcase their offseason progression. Houston and Chicago are next, both games in the Dawg Pound.

Win totals for Cleveland are following a predictable path and it’s turning into a costly venture for anyone that is late to the party.

  • Betting the Browns to go OVER 10.5 wins is the current line, up from 9.5 in April.

Cleveland’s divisional odds haven’t changed much over the past few months as they are firmly supplanted in second place behind the Ravens (+120) to win the AFC North. Super Bowl odds are a different story, however.

Betting the Browns to win the Super Bowl has moved from +2500 in March to +1600 in May, down to its current price of +1400. Only one team can win this future but Cleveland is clearly on the radar for long-range bettors.

Cleveland Browns Trends

You want to talk about starting off on the wrong foot, Cleveland is 1-21-1 SU in the past 23 years in their first game of the season.

  • The Browns have a 6-16-1 ATS (27%) record in Week 1 since 1995.

Cleveland showed a shred of promise three years ago when they played to a draw against their nemesis, the Steelers in Week 1. Since then the Brownies have followed it up with blowout losses to the Titans (43-13) and Ravens (38-6). Cleveland visits Kansas City to start the 2021 campaign and the current line is Chiefs -6 points.

  • Cleveland’s record off a win, when they are now facing a team with fewer wins than the Browns, is 7-14 ATS (33%).

Cleveland was live in the above angle six times in 2020, going 2-4 ATS. The Browns learned how to win in 2020 but they’re a letdown team for bettors the following week.

If you’re looking for a contrarian angle that could present value, circle the Week 5, Browns at Chargers matchup. The projected line is Pick ’em and with Cleveland playing their second of back-to-back road games (at Minnesota, Week 4), it won’t surprise me to see this chalk edge towards the homers.

  • Cleveland is 14-10 ATS (58%) in west coast road games, including a 8-6 ATS mark in more recent games.
  • In games that occurred before Week 11, the Browns are 10-5 ATS (67%).

And then the real contrarian angle when when you account for each of these two teams’ 9-7 O/U record last year:

  • Cleveland is on a 6-2 UNDER (75%) run on the left coast its past eight visits.

One of those low scoring games was against the Chargers in 2017. That was LA’s first year out of San Diego and the total for that game was 43. Expect the total for this Week 5 matchup to be closer to 51 points.

The Browns have the 9th best travel schedule in terms of miles, and they also play just one short-week road game (Week 16 at Green Bay), and one game off SNF or MNF (Week 18 vs. Cinci).

  • Cleveland has a 38-25 OVER (60%) record when playing with a rest advantage.

With QB Mayfield at the controls, this trend is 5-3 OVER (63%).

Browns Bottom Line

Ranking just outside the Top 10 is Cleveland’s defensive line, led by Myles Garrett. Betting the Browns lineman to win Defensive Player of the Year honors is a sweet 6-to-1 payback, and he’s surrounded by Aaron Donald (+300) and TJ Watt (+700).

Garrett has had his on-field issues but you can’t complain about the numbers. Already with double-digit sacks in three straight seasons and 18 more QB hits last year, Garrett is now joined by Jadeveon Clowney which reduces opponents’ ability to double team.

DT Malik Jackson takes over for Sheldon Richardson (Vikings). For depth on the line, Takkarist McKinley is on board for a one-year deal, and keep an eye on second-year DT Jordan Elliot. The third-rounder was a full-on backup last year but will see an increased role with the defense in 2021.

Cleveland also drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first round, who could step in right away as a three-down linebacker. And John Johnson III from the Rams is the team’s newest, not-so-secret weapon in the secondary that will provide flexibility in D-Co Joe Woods’ entire scheme.

In the past, betting the Browns to live up to expectations was an express ticket to Letdown City. Present day, it isn’t crazy projecting them to match last year’s 11-win total. Exceeding it could come down to how well this defensive unit gels.

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