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Browns 2018 win total: 5.5 (-150 over, +130 under)
Browns 2017 record: 0-16
Key offseason acquisitions: CB E.J. Gaines, OT Chris Hubbard, RB Carlos Hyde, LB Mychal Kendricks, WR Jarvis Landry, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Damarious Randall, QB Tyrod Taylor
Key offseason losses: WR Corey Coleman, RB Isaiah Crowell, QB Cody Kessler, QB DeShone Kizer, CB Jason McCourty, DT Danny Shelton, OT Joe Thomas
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Browns’ win total
1. The Browns went 1-31 the previous two seasons. Yes, this is a different team with some obvious appeal, but the over asks Cleveland to win six times as many games this year as it won in the previous two years combined. That’s a relevant fact, no matter how much turnover there was this offseason. It’s a long way to 6-10 from 1-15 and 0-16, and there’s room for the Browns to improve significantly, but still come in under the total.
2. Having said that, this team clearly got better on paper, most notably on offense. Out are DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt. In are Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry. David Njoku should have a much larger role in the offense, and the team may finally get a full year out of Josh Gordon for the first time since 2013. There are more than a few teams that would trade skill-position groups with the Browns in a heartbeat today, and that’s remarkable considering where this team has been the last two years.
3. The Taylor-Mayfield question is going to loom over this team all season, no matter who starts or how well he plays. Taylor may not be perfect, but he’s far too good to be a backup. Mayfield, meanwhile, was the No. 1 pick, and clearly is the future of the franchise. Jared Goff didn’t start immediately after being the top pick in 2016, but he started seven games for the Rams that year. The last quarterback taken first overall to start fewer than seven games was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. How Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and John Dorsey handle this situation will have significant influence over the Browns this season.
4. There’s a ton of potential on the defensive side of the ball. Three of Cleveland’s best defensive players—Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah and Jamie Collins—missed five or more games last year. Having those three healthy instantly makes the unit better, especially Garrett, who should be one of the league’s best pass rushers. The Browns have quietly built a strong linebacker corps, with Collins joined by Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, with former Eagle Mychal Kendricks mixing in as well. Safety Jabrill Peppers, a first-round pick last year, will have a bigger role this year, and new GM Dorsey completely remade the rest of the secondary, as he brought in safety Damarious Randall and corner Terrance Mitchell, and used the No. 4 pick on Ohio State corner Denzel Ward.
5. The schedule could get tricky for Cleveland. The AFC North isn’t the most challenging group in the league, but four games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore won’t be easy. Additionally, the North matches up with the AFC West and NFC South, a couple of brutal divisions. There’s nothing easy about a schedule that includes the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Chargers and Chiefs, in addition to those four games against the Steelers and Ravens. Plus, the Browns' last-place schedule includes a game in Houston, thanks to an injury-driven slide for the Texans last year. That means the Browns will face Ben Roethlisberger twice, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers and Deshaun Watson. I love where this team is headed. I don’t think it gets there this year.
PICK: UNDER 5.5 wins