The Cleveland Browns may be coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history, but that doesn’t seem to be dissuading bettors from liking the team, as sportsbooks are reporting a surprisingly large number of bets on the franchise that many see as the NFL’s laughingstock.
According to ESPN, multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks are reporting that the Browns are getting plenty of attention from the public this year, a surprising show of faith for a team that went 0-16 last season and has only won one game over the past two years.
Influx of Talent Spikes Interest
To be sure, most experts believe that the Browns will improve somewhat this year. They’ve brought in talent at the offensive skill positions, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor. And their future is bright: with the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Cleveland selected Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner.
But none of that explains the number of people who seem to believe the Browns could actually be a contender this year. According to a manager at the Caesars Palace sportsbook, not only is the majority of money backing Cleveland to hit the over on their win total – initially 5.5, and now up to six because of the action coming in – but many bettors are putting cash on the Browns to make the playoffs.
“There are more bets on the Browns to win the AFC North than the other teams combined,” the unnamed employee told ESPN. “Only the Raiders and Steelers have more bets to win the AFC. The public likes the Browns, and I’m not sure why.”
That’s a noticeable change from the last two years, when bookmakers had to provide premium lines on the Browns in order to get any public money at all on them. That meant that sharp bettors were often on Cleveland, even if it still didn’t pay off often: according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Browns still went just 4-12 against the spread last year.
“I almost guarantee you that is going to flip this year,” MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood told ESPN. “I think we’re going to see more sharp money come against the Browns this year and maybe more public money on the Browns this time around.”
Emmett Golden, a radio personality on ESPN Cleveland, believes that the influx of talent into the team might be responsible for the public interest in backing the Browns.
“The Browns have a quarterback now, actually they have two, and that’s really different from what we’re used to,” Golden told FOX 8 in Cleveland. “That is the reason why everyone is so excited.”
The long odds on the Browns also means that some sportsbooks have pretty significant liability should Cleveland defy the odds and go all the way. Rood told ESPN that the Browns – who are 60/1 to win the Super Bowl at MGM – are the only team MGM has liability on at the moment.
Online bookmakers are offering even more generous odds for those adventurous enough to dream of a miraculous season for Cleveland. The Browns are 80/1 at most online betting sites, with Paddy Power offering 100/1 for them to win a championship this season. That’s a far cry from the 5/1 bettors can get on the New England Patriots, who enter the season as the favorites to win the 2019 Super Bowl.