Are the Cleveland Browns Legit This Season?

December 2, 2020

After the disappointment of the 2019 season, Cleveland Browns fans were a bit more guarded heading into this season. The roster looked good, much like it did last year.

So, whether the team would be good would depend on how well first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski did his job. Since they are heading into Week 13 with an 8-3 record, Stefanski must be doing something right.

A win this Sunday will guarantee the Browns a winning record for the first time since 2007. But fans are not going to want to stop with that. Now the division title is out of reach, barring a complete meltdown by the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers down the stretch.

They can still make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and once the postseason starts—anything can happen. So, does that mean you should put money down on the Browns to win the AFC (+2000; odds via DraftKings) or maybe even the Super Bowl (+4000).

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Could the Cleveland Browns actually be good enough to win either this season? Or is their record making them look better than they are?

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The Cleveland Browns in 2020

With an 8-3 record, it is easy to assume that the Browns are indeed a good team; that they are legit. But not all 8-3 records are built the same. Buffalo and Tennessee are also 8-3 but have a stronger strength of schedule rating than the Browns (.496 and .500 to .417).

Does that mean the Browns have not played anyone this season? Their eight wins are against Cincinnati, Washington, Dallas, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Houston, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville. Of the eight, the only one with a winning record is Indianapolis.

This is not to say that they have not played any tough teams. They faced the Baltimore Ravens in Week One, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week Six, and Las Vegas Raiders in Week Eight—and they lost all three. While the Raiders game was not too bad (16-6), the Ravens and Steelers losses were by 30+ points.

Since they beat the Colts, we know it is possible for the Browns to play with and even win against some of the league’s better teams. But it is a little concerning that they had so much trouble with the Bengals (both times) and just squeezed by the Texans, Eagles, and Jaguars.

So – what does that tell us about the Cleveland Browns?

It tells us that they have beaten the teams they should have beaten but tend to struggle against the better teams. The win over the Colts proves that is not always the case. But one big win is not much to base postseason success off.

They need more and could get them in the weeks ahead. Of their five remaining games, three are against playoff-bound teams (Tennessee, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh). Technically, there is a fourth since the New York Giants might win the NFC East.

If they just beat the Jets and Giants, the two games they should win, they will win ten games for the second time since the franchise was reborn. But if they can win one of the other three, they finish with 11 wins for the first time since 1994.

Beating the Titans, Steelers, or Ravens will not be easy for the Cleveland Browns, but a win over one of them will give teams something to think about as the playoffs get underway.

So – How Should You Bet?

They are not going to win the division. But there is a good chance they will make the playoffs (Yes -400 and No +305; odds via DraftKings). Winning eight or nine games would have been enough to earn the 7-seed for the last four years.

With how the season is shaping up, they will be good for at least ten wins.

However, their win total is a little trickier to call (over 10.5 +105, under 10.5 -125; odds via FanDuel). They are more than likely good for ten, but to cover the over, they will need to beat either the Titans, Steelers, or Ravens.

They could beat one or maybe even two of them, but they could just as easily lose all three.

Their odds of winning the AFC are not terrible at +2000, but have the Cleveland Browns played like a team at any point in the season that can beat the Kansas City Chiefs?

Betting Play: Cleveland Browns to make it to the Playoffs

Surprisingly—yes. They have had a few games where they ran for 200-300+ yards on the ground.

If they can do that against the Chiefs and keep Patrick Mahomes off the field, they might have a shot. That is if they can get to the AFC title game. If the playoffs were to start this week, they would face the Buffalo Bills in the first round and probably the Steelers in the divisional round.

It is hard to see the Cleveland Browns making it past the Bills and Steelers. If they can’t do that to get to the AFC title game, their Super Bowl (+4000) dreams can’t happen. 

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