By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
In recent years, Cleveland sports fans have been able to witness history unfold before them.
LeBron’s block and Kyrie’s dagger to bring ‘The Land’ their first World Championship.
The Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year title drought against their Cleveland Indians in a World Series for the ages.
And in 2019, perhaps the rarest moment of them all, the Cleveland Browns were considered to be a dark horse to make a run at a Super Bowl!
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that there are many moments in life that make you scratch your head and wonder aloud if you’re still on the same planet as anyone else, because at no moment in time should we ever consider the Cleveland Browns to be Super Bowl contenders.
If they’re going to win a Super Bowl, it’s going to be like when the Rams came out of nowhere to win one, and even then, it will still take several years to believe it even happened.
And so here we are again, back to square one with the Cleveland Browns.
The Brownies would once again send an NFL coach and GM to the chopping block, this time removing Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey from their respective posts, and have turned the keys to the NFL’s closest equivalent to a PT Cruiser over to former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
Stefanski, in typical Browns’ fashion, would land the gig after the Vikings managed to get 147 yards of offense in a 27-10 loss to San Francisco in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. Quite the shot in the arm for your new fan base!
But as we enter the 2020 season, stop us if you’ve heard this one before, the Browns do have hope!
Browns 2019 Season Review
Hoo boy, where do we begin?
After a captivating end to the 2018 season, rookie Baker Mayfield appeared to finally give the Browns the franchise quarterback they had been searching for, and the Browns would use a 5-2 finish to the season to become exceptionally aggressive in the trade and free-agent market that offseason.
Cleveland of course pulled off one of the bigger moves of the 2019 offseason when they traded for Odell Beckham Jr., but they didn’t stop there, also bringing on Kareem Hunt, signing Sheldon Richardson away from Minnesota and trading for Olivier Vernon.
On paper, all of these moves looked to be slam dunks. However, the Browns were doomed from the start when GM John Dorsey would pass on hiring a credible coach to work with this sudden surge of talent in Cleveland, and instead promote interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to be the team’s head-coach.
Hiring Freddie Kitchens did provide the answer to the riddle of what would happen if you hired a sugared up 12-year old playing Madden 20 and allowed him to do that in real life, but it did not ascend the Browns into contender status.
In fact, the team would actually regress from the season before, where they went 7-8-1, and finish a lowly 6-10 with Baker Mayfield having the second-most turnovers in football behind Jameis Winston, and Myles Garrett trying to turn the Steelers backup quarterback into a pinata.
The Browns were 2019 offseason champions but showed they still had a long way to go before they could even think about winning a Super Bowl. Kitchens was fired after one season, Dorsey was let go before that, and the Browns once again were left to hit the reset button, hoping to start a new decade with a new direction.
Willingly Moved to Cleveland, Ohio (We Aren’t Sure Why Either)
TE Austin Hooper (Falcons)
RT Jack Conklin (Titans)
DE Adrian Clayborn (Falcons)
CB Kevin Johnson (Bills)
S Karl Joseph (Raiders)
DT Andrew Billings (Bengals)
QB Case Keenum (Washington)
Getting a Second Chance at Happiness After Leaving Ohio
LB Joe Schobert (Jaguars)
S Eric Murray (Texans)
LB Christian Kirksey (Packers)
S Juston Burris (Panthers)
S Damarious Randall (Raiders)
Browns 2020 Offensive Preview
I’m afraid to write this, but the Browns finally may have gotten it right.
After kicking Freddie Kitchens to the curb, Cleveland elected to hire Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, in large part because the team hopes to follow the trend of running the football and executing your passing game through play-action passing, as opposed to the spread em’ out, air-raid variety that Kitchens tried and whiffed at quite spectacularly.
The immediate beneficiaries of this hire would be that of Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb. Mayfield should see improvement on his AFC high 21-interceptions, and Chubb should become more of a focal point within the Browns new offensive system.
Chubb has been outstanding for the Browns at the outset of his career, rushing for nearly 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the team. In the new Stefanski offense, he figures to get the bulk of the carries in a loaded Cleveland backfield that also has ex-Kansas City star Kareem Hunt as the backup.
Once again, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will be the Browns main threats at wide receiver, with the team signing Austin Hooper to a big contract in free agency to provide a big lift at that position. Earlier in the offseason former first-round pick David Njoku requested a trade but has since rescinded that request per reports, so their tight-end tandem could be one of the best in the league.
The Browns also went to work on improving the weakest unit on the team a season ago, their offensive line. After Joe Thomas retired, the gap at left-tackle was too much for the Browns to overcome. That should not be the case in 2020 as the team selected the mammoth Jedrick Wills to play on the left side and signed, arguably the best right tackle in football, Jack Conklin to a massive deal in free agency.
Browns 2020 Defensive Preview
Quietly the Browns have assembled a defense filled with young talent all throughout the roster.
The main attraction on defense is that of professional whack-a-moler slash premier pass-rushing specialist Myles Garrett, who may have committed assault on Mason Rudolph before cashing in with a massive contract extension in the offseason.
Garrett, outside of the incident with Rudolph, has been well worth the #1 overall pick from three years ago, and he has already racked up 30.5 sacks in just 37 games. Garrett makes up a potentially dangerous defensive line with fellow veterans Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon.
The deepest group on the Browns defense though is that of their secondary, and the young cornerback tandem of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams look to improve upon a great start to each of their careers. Rookie Grant Delpit comes over from the National Champion winning LSU Tigers to start at free safety for the Browns, and former Raiders’ first-round pick Karl Joseph looks to rejuvenate his career as the Browns strong safety.
Cleveland has a young and athletic linebacking corps, but lacks experience at the position and will need someone to fill the shoes of the departed Joe Schobert, who took a big deal from Jacksonville in free agency. If the Browns are able to find a couple of gems within their young linebacking corps though, this defense has the potential to become one of the leagues best.
Browns 2020 Outlook & Prediction
Here we are again, fighting off every urge to dive head first into the Cleveland Browns 2020 hype wagon. However, the Browns roster is sincerely one of the better ones in the AFC. Their biggest questions come once again at coach and quarterback.
On paper, having a coach like Stefanski calling the show does give the same vibes as other contenders like San Francisco and Seattle where they lean on their running game to open up the passing game, and that offense may be exactly what Baker Mayfield needs to get back on course.
With that being said, it remains to be seen if Baker is ready to play in an offense where he will need to be more disciplined and shelf his desire to be the gun-slinging star he was at Oklahoma. If he can do that, protect the football and lean on arguably the best RB tandem in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, all the pieces are there to get the Browns back into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
If they don’t buy in though, and Baker continues to regress, barring Case Keenum saving their season it could be another disappointing year in the Rock and Roll Capitol of the World.
We think Baker improves and the first season of the Stefanski era is a success. Pop the champagne bottles Browns fans, your playoff drought ends in 2020 (unless COVID-19 ends the season first, which, for the Browns would be quite fitting).
Browns 2020 Projection: 10-6, T-2nd AFC North
Browns 2020 Betting Preview
While Cleveland Browns football can generally be quite depressing to see, these wagers involving them won’t be! Here are our favorite bets in relation to the Browns.
- Cleveland Browns OVER 8.5 Wins — (-121) at DraftKings Sportsbook
That’s right Browns fans, Vegas expects you to have a winning season in 2020! Are the Browns about to pull the football out from underneath us a la Lucy and Charlie Brown? It’s certainly possible, but we agree with oddsmakers on this one and will take the over on their 2020 win total.
- Cleveland Browns to Make Playoffs (YES) — (+130) at DraftKings Sportsbook
2020 is off-the-rails crazy, you know this year isn’t ending before something wonky happens involving the Browns. But if you want an actual reason for this, 11 of the Browns 16 games in 2020 come against teams that did not make the playoffs. They do not have an overly difficult schedule, with their toughest road date being their Week 1 opener against Baltimore, a team they beat in Baltimore in 2019. The Browns chances to make the playoffs in a wide-open AFC with an additional playoff spot are better than you may think.
- Cleveland Browns to Finish in 2nd Place AFC North — (+240) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Not only are we taking the Brownies to finish with a winning record and to end a 17-year playoff drought, but we are also taking them to finish in second place in the AFC North at +240. Is this likely to happen? Probably not, but we’re going to take a shot at the plus-240 value here.