The Browns made a late run and were in the playoff hunt in 2019, and now it looks like they are on the verge of being contenders in the AFC.
NumberFire today came out with an interesting piece entitled “3 Value Bets to Win Super Bowl LIV,” and along with the Colts and Bucs, the Browns are on the list.
Here’s what they had to say about Cleveland and their chances to win the big game next year.
Cleveland Browns +3200
Never in my lifetime did I expect to consider the Cleveland Browns as a legitimate contender, but here we are heading into 2019 and things are finally trending upwards. Once Hue Jackson was finally fired, the Browns were able to finish the 2018 season 5-3 with a 8+ point differential. Over that span, Baker Mayfield threw 19 touchdowns compared to 8 interceptions. The rookie signal caller has brought optimism to the franchise for the first time in a long time.
Since 1948, there have been 82 rookie quarterbacks who started at least 10 games. Amongst those 82, Mayfield finished first in passing touchdowns, sixth in completion percentage, sixth in passing yards and sixth in adjusted yards per pass attempt. This kid has a bright future ahead.
Not only did the Browns hit correctly on Mayfield in the draft, they seemed to have cashed in handsomely with corner Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb. Cleveland had no issue putting Ward on the opposing team’s best wide receiver, and he played well prior to suffering some injuries late in the season. Chubb finished the season with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns despite not being unleashed until a few weeks into the season (upon the trade of Carlos Hyde).
While the defense improved last season, it still has a ways to go, but one thing that stood out was the aggressiveness, as evidenced by finishing second in takeaways with 31.With Cleveland having the third-most available cap space heading into next season, they should be able to invest in the defense, specifically on the defensive line alongside Myles Garrett. Having a potential stud quarterback and very exciting running back on rookie contracts will help the Browns address the rest of their needs.
When we look at the AFC North as a division, the Bengals have brought in an unknown at head coach and haven’t made the playoffs since 2015.The Steelers have uncertainty of their own with the Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell situations, while Ben Roethlisberger only continues to get older. And while the Baltimore Ravens showed improvement last year, teams got to see Lamar Jackson start eight games and show no threat of being an efficient passer (58.2% completion percentage and 6.08 net yards per attempts). This gives the Browns a strong chance at the division title for the first time since ’89.
Cleveland’s Super Bowl odds will only shorten up as they add key pieces throughout the offseason. Now is a great time to jump in and join them on the bandwagon toward their bright future.
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