Sportsbooks Play Middle Ground on Browns Odds as Deshaun Watson Suspension Looms

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Bookmakers hedge on Browns odds with Deshaun Watson suspension forthcoming (AP Photo/Justin Rex File)

Deshaun Watson recently settled 20 of the 24 civil cases pending against him, prompting increased speculation that a suspension could be forthcoming. Watson’s disciplinary hearing begins Tuesday, and the expectation is he will miss multiple games. While the NFL reportedly wants an indefinite suspension of at least one year, the NFLPA is pushing back and will likely file an appeal against such a punishment.

In spite of the uncertainty, bettors can still consider their Cleveland Browns betting strategy.

Sportsbooks are treating the Browns carefully. While Cleveland’s games and season win total have been left off many betting boards, Browns’ futures are available for wagering. At DraftKings, Cleveland is priced at +2800 to win Super Bowl 57 and +1400 to win the AFC. In the AFC North market, the Browns are are the third betting choice at +230, behind the Ravens (+175) and Bengals (+190). At +900, the Steelers are the longest shot to win the division.

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Oddsmakers are straddling two possibilities – one that Watson will miss the entire season, the other that he’ll be able to play in enough games to get the team into the playoffs and make a run at the titles.

“We’re at a middle price right now,” Johnny Avello, director of race & sportsbook operations at DraftKings, told Gaming Today on Monday. “(28-1) is a price where if he does play, they’re gonna be a little less than that, and if he doesn’t play, they’re gonna be higher than that. You have to keep them up (in futures markets). You can’t have all the teams up and not them.”

Bettors Shying Away From Browns

Jacoby Brissett becomes the likely starter in Watson’s absence. While Baker Mayfield is still on the roster, the Browns have been looking to trade him, and most NFL observers do not believe he’ll be on the team come Week 1.

Some bettors are shying away from any bets regarding the Browns, while others mine for a profit opportunity. Futures bets on the Browns are not popular – DraftKings has seen very little action on them, per Avello – but the middle-ground pricing could present value on, for example, Baltimore or Cincinnati to win the division. Should Watson be sidelined for an entire season, the Browns’ odds will lengthen and their AFC North opponents’ will shorten. That would create value on the aforementioned Ravens +175 and Bengals +190 prices.

“The Ravens are gonna be the favorite regardless if he’s playing or not, and the Bengals won’t be too far behind,” Avello said.  “… You can bet the Ravens right now. That doesn’t mean they’re gonna win it because Cincinnati could beat them. And this is without Watson playing. If you wanted to bet ’em both (Baltimore and Cincinnati) at a plus you could do that, but there’s always a chance of one of the other teams winning.”

While we’ll stop short of definitively calling the Browns a fade, we’ll offer that their odds don’t stand out as a quality betting value. Presuming a Watson suspension — potentially a lengthy one — the Browns, in theory, will have little to no margin for error if they’re to reach the playoffs.

The suggestion that Watson will return midseason feeds the narrative that the Browns will be in position to make a second-half playoff push after treading water to start the campaign. Even under these circumstances, the risk for Browns backers is the narrow margin of error the team will contend with, both before and after Watson’s return.

Coaches love to preach the “it takes all three phases” mantra, and that cliche particularly applies to Cleveland this season. They may not have to play flawless offense, defense, and special teams, but they have to be close to perfection if they want to remain within striking distance of a playoff berth by the season’s second half.

Check back at Gaming Today for analysis of the three phases of the Browns’ game.

About the Author
Craig Williams

Craig Williams

Craig Williams is a Charlotte-based writer for Gaming Today, who has worked professionally in the gaming, fantasy sports, and sports business industries. He’s an avid fantasy football player, managing over 100 leagues across multiple formats. When he’s not pouring over Vegas odds and statistics, he’s indulging in soccer and enjoys anything from LigaMX to Champions League.

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