Even after a winless start for the Cleveland Browns, there are several reasons to believe this team can be an under-the-radar profit producer the remainder of the season.
This is a roster obviously devoid of upper-tier talent. They have a sub-par offensive line, no continuity at the quarterback position, a lack of skill position weapons, and a defense with plenty of holes at all three levels.
Defensively, the Browns rank 25th of worse in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards and total points allowed per game. The team’s power rating is about as low as it possibly can be right now as most people have them right there with San Francisco as the worst team in the league. But despite the laundry list of problems, this isn’t a team to shy away from a betting perspective.
I’m a fan of head coach Hue Jackson who with little to work with is still one of the better play designers in the NFL. He’s been able to squeeze as much as possible out of the offense by using multiple formations, pre-snap shifts and unique personnel packages. On the season, Cleveland is averaging 355 ypg which ranks a respectable 15th.
Turnovers and red zone problems have kept them below 20 ppg but moving the football hasn’t been a problem. The fact that Terrelle Pryor (a former quarterback) leads the team with 532 receiving yards speaks volumes about Jackson’s ability to create offense. The running back duo of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson isn’t spectacular but they have proven to be solid enough with Crowell averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Cleveland also welcomed back veteran quarterback Josh McCown this past Sunday. He was far from perfect (25-of-49, 2 INTs) but threw for 349 yards and was able to hit Pryor for a late touchdown the help the Browns cover (or push) for those bettors who locked in an early week number. You’re splitting hairs between McCown and Cody Kessler but McCown does offer experience and the ability to take chances down field.
Looking at Cleveland’s results, they’ve been competitive more often than not. They battled Baltimore down to the wire in Week 2. Lost in overtime at Miami in a game they should have won had it not been for a bad day from the kicking game. They had a chance to beat Washington on the road with a lead heading into the fourth quarter.
They never quit despite trailing by double-digits at Tennessee; rallying late to lose by a field goal and cashing a ticket as +7.5 underdogs. They also stood toe-to-toe with Cincinnati a couple weeks ago for a half before losing Kessler to injury and having fellow rookie Kevin Hogan forced into action. Even in Sunday’s loss to Jets, Cleveland led for more than a half before their defense ran out of steam.
There is a very realistic possibility that Cleveland does not win a single game this season. The remaining schedule is fairly difficult with home games against Dallas, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants, Cincinnati and San Diego. They also travel to Baltimore, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. But I see a capable enough offensive team that to this point, hasn’t quit.
Keep in mind that for a number of their future opponents, Cleveland will be viewed as almost a “bye week” and an opportunity to pick up a win without expending a max amount of energy. Couple that with one of the league’s lowest power ratings and there will be optimal betting situations. This isn’t a team we can ride the rest of the way but it wouldn’t shock me to see this squad finish the campaign on a 5-3 or better ATS run.