The sports world hasn’t been kind to Cleveland lately. Not only has LeBron James left the city in a pile of rubble, the Cleveland Browns have been a laughingstock for several seasons.
2009 was a disaster for the Browns, who had bottom-of-the-barrel Super Bowl odds at Sportsbook all year and lost 11 of their first 12 games. But 2010 offers a faint glimmer of hope. Not only did Cleveland end last season with four straight wins, saving coach Eric Mangini’s job, it also made several significant changes in the offseason. The first big move was bringing in Mike Holmgren to be the team president; the Browns also added lots of new personnel via the draft, trading, and free agency.
Cleveland Browns Odds to Win Division:
+1000 Cleveland Browns Regular Season Win Total: 5.5 (OV -125, UN -105)
Cleveland Browns Super Bowl Odds: 80 to 1
Cleveland ranked dead last in the NFL in total offense last season, averaging a paltry 260.2 yards per game. It’s thus no surprise to see some major changes at the skill positions for 2010. But are they good changes? Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn couldn’t get the job done at quarterback; both now play for different teams as a result. But new starting pivot Jake Delhomme may not be much better; he threw a whopping 18 interceptions in just 11 games with Carolina last year. Seneca Wallace – or Colt McCoy? – may steal his job in a hurry.
The Browns may struggle to pass the ball again in 2010 but their running game could do some damage. Jerome Harrison had some amazing games late last season running behind a decent line led by Joe Thomas. Rookie Montario Hardesty will push him for playing time in the backfield. The Browns were 31st in total defense last year so it’s no surprise that they worked hard to improve there in the offseason.
Scott Fujita and Sheldon Brown will help, but they’re more role players than difference-makers. First-round pick Joe Haden was considered the top defensive back in the draft by most but he has reportedly looked frighteningly slow in camp. Even though the Browns won five games last season and have added plenty of talent, betting over 5.5 wins is risky. Their four victories came at the end of 2009 largely because of Harrison’s fluky hot streak.
The Browns’ schedule is cruel. It’s tough enough that they play Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh twice each, but they also visit New Orleans and host the Jets and Patriots. Under 5.5 wins looks like the safer bet. The best time to pick Cleveland may be in Week 1 at lowly Tampa Bay.