Super Bowl 54 may still be about a year away, but it’s never too early to talk about the big game. In news that should surprise exactly nobody, the New England Patriots are your way-too-early betting favorites to win it all next year. BetOnline has the reigning Super Bowl champs listed at +600 to win it all again next year. If I were you, I’d already be placing my bets on New England.
So, the odds to win Super Bowl 54 will likely look quite a bit different in September than they do now. Regardless, it’s certainly worth noting that oddsmakers seem particularly bullish on the Cleveland Browns. Yes, those Cleveland Browns. While the Browns do have a rich history of success, you would have to be pretty old by now to remember much of it.
Again, plenty will change in the months between now and the beginning of the 2019 regular season. Free agency will start soon, and the NFL draft will follow soon after that. Some teams that emerged as contenders this past season may not have such rosy outlooks once the dust settles over the next few months. Obviously, the betting odds will also shift accordingly.
But since the franchise’s rebirth in 1999, the Browns have made exactly one appearance in the playoffs. The 2002 team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round. Over the course of three seasons from 2015 through 2017, Cleveland won a total of four games.
However, things began to turn in a big way last season. Despite firing head coach Hue Jackson midway through the campaign, the Browns managed to finish last year with a record of 7-8-1. It was just the second time since 2008 that the Browns had mustered as many as seven victories in a season. So, despite the fact that they missed the playoffs, it was still a marked improvement over their winless 2017 campaign.
Oddsmakers noticed. As of mid-February, the Browns actually have more favorable odds to win Super Bowl 54 than 75 percent of the teams in their own conference. BetOnline has the Browns listed at +1600 to win it all next season, which means they have better championship odds than perennial contenders like the Green Bay Packers (+1800), Minnesota Vikings (+1800), Philadelphia Eagles (+2000), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2200), and Dallas Cowboys (+2500). What a time to be alive.
Here are the teams with the best odds to win Super Bowl 54 (per BetOnline):
Odds to Win Super Bowl 54
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Chargers
Browns’ Big 2018 Offseason Proved Crucial
The Browns going from a winless disaster to a team on the rise didn’t happen overnight, but last year’s offseason proved instrumental to the team’s massive improvement. The bold decision to draft former Heisman winner Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick last year is looking like the right move.
There were fair questions about Mayfield’s disposition and size coming out of college, but he showed during his rookie campaign that he belongs in the league. The Oklahoma product completed 63.8 percent of his throws as a rookie for 3,725 yards with 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Most young quarterbacks throw plenty of picks, so I would expect Mayfield to continue to work on ball security moving forward.
His big-play ability was evident. Breaking the rookie record for touchdown passes is a remarkable accomplishment, and Cleveland should work to improve Mayfield’s arsenal of weapons. Signing Jarvis Landry away from the Dolphins last offseason was huge. The former LSU Tiger is one of the game’s best possession receivers, and he showed it during his first season in town. Landry caught 81 passes for 976 yards with four touchdowns in his first year as a member of the Browns. Cleveland should be looking for upgrades over fellow receivers Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and Breshad Perriman, but Callaway and Higgins did show flashes last year.
Tight end David Njoku looks like a real weapon. The Browns made the questionable decision of signing former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, but from a football perspective, it makes sense. Cleveland is likely to hand the starting job to Nick Chubb, but if Chubb gets hurt the Browns will need a quality backup. Chubb ran for at least 100 yards three times over the Browns’ last seven games, so there are understandably big expectations for the running back as he enters year two.
The Browns’ young defense, led by former No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, figures to continue taking steps forward, too. If Cleveland can improve its pass rush – the Browns’ 37 sacks last season ranked 22nd – they could prove to be quite the formidable foe in the near future.
Adding Mayfield, Chubb, and Landry to the mix helped the Browns’ offense take a huge step forward in 2018. Based on their 5-2 run over the last seven games of last season, it’s easy to see why oddsmakers think highly of Cleveland heading into next year.
AFC North in Turmoil?
The Patriots are an unquestionable dynasty. The Pats have remained annual contenders for the last 20 years, which is something we haven’t seen at this level before. Nothing can be taken away from the amazing work of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but they have definitely had some help along the way.
The Patriots have benefited from playing in the weak AFC East for years. The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets have been disastrous during most of the Patriots’ reign, so New England starting the season with what essentially amounts to a guaranteed playoff spot definitely doesn’t hurt their chances of winning the Super Bowl every year. The relative ineptitude of the Patriots’ divisional foes is a big reason for the team’s sustained success.
Looking ahead to 2019, the Browns may find themselves in a similar boat. It sounds strange to say, but is Cleveland going to enter the year as favorites in the AFC North? Based on the current Super Bowl odds, it’s sure looking that way.
The Baltimore Ravens won the division this past season, but they weren’t exactly a powerhouse. The Ravens finished 10-6 before being bounced at home in the Wild Card round by the L.A. Chargers. Lamar Jackson will be Baltimore’s No. 1 quarterback heading into 2019, but the jury is still out on him. Jackson was uneven after supplanting Joe Flacco as Baltimore’s starter at the end of last season, and he looked downright lost in the aforementioned loss to the Chargers in the playoffs.
I think Jackson will improve as he enters his second season, but there is enough uncertainty to where I don’t consider the Ravens to be division favorites.
The Steelers are suddenly a team with serious problems. Antonio Brown is looking like a goner after seemingly having a falling out with his teammates and the Pittsburgh brass. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, either. Pittsburgh was generally unremarkable last season when they finished 9-6-1 and missed the postseason for the first time in five years.
Brown is still a great player, so the Steelers will take a hit offensively regardless of what they wind up getting back when they inevitably trade the All-Pro. Juju Smith-Schuster will step into Brown’s place, but he’s going to need some help. I’m skeptical that he can duplicate the production of Brown, who has been one of the premier pass-catchers in the game for the last half-decade. Pittsburgh looks like a more dangerous team than Baltimore, but at this point, there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism here.
The Bengals look like a team that needs to blow it up. Teams go worst-to-first in the NFL all the time, but Cincinnati looks like a pretty unlikely candidate to accomplish the feat.
All things considered, the Browns look like the team with the most momentum in the AFC North. As strange as that may sound, none of the other three teams looks poised to seriously contend in 2019. That plays a major role in the Browns’ surprisingly good Super Bowl outlook.
Other AFC Contenders?
Once you get past New England and Kansas City, there isn’t much about the AFC that really jumps out. The Patriots and Chiefs were clearly the conference’s two best teams all year long, which is why oddsmakers seem to think NE and KC are once again poised to challenge for the Super Bowl next season. BetOnline has the Pats (+600) and Chiefs (+700) listed with the best odds to win Super Bowl 54.
The Indianapolis Colts (+1400) are the team with the third-best odds. That’s a distant third, too. The Colts were one of the most improved teams in football last season with Andrew Luck returning from injury. Luck looked as good as ever under first-year head coach Frank Reich, so Indy will likely enter next season as favorites in the AFC South.
The Colts didn’t mount much of a challenge against the Chiefs when they met in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, however. There are still plenty of holes on this roster, so I hesitate to label the Colts as a serious contender. Their offseason activity will dictate whether I will have much interest in betting on Indianapolis to win Super Bowl 54.
The Chargers (+2000) and Texans (+3300) are teams that always seem to garner preseason optimism before falling flat once the games start to matter. L.A. and Houston were two of the most trendy Super Bowl picks before last season began. While both teams wound up making the playoffs, neither of them quite lived up to expectations. The Texans were flattened by the Colts in the Wild Card round, while the Chargers wound up getting curb-stomped by the Patriots in the divisional round.
Both teams have enough talent, but I’ll take a wait-and-see when it comes to betting on Los Angeles and Houston. Once again, both teams look poised to emerge as preseason darlings before disappointing everybody.
I’m skeptical that the Browns have enough offensive firepower to hang with the Patriots or Chiefs at the top of the conference, but I will let the offseason play out before jumping to any serious conclusions on that front. Given how watered-down the AFC looks on the whole, it’s easy to see why the Browns are jumping out as such a viable betting option.
Browns Aren’t Quite There Yet
So, can the Browns really win Super Bowl 54? It’s possible, but I would still consider Cleveland to be a long shot. Buying into the hype can be a dangerous game, and it can lead to regrettable decisions when it comes to futures betting. Just because the Browns look good now doesn’t mean they will look nearly as appealing from a betting perspective once next season starts in September.
At this point, I would be much more interested in betting on the Browns to win the AFC North than the Super Bowl. I tend to believe the notion that Cleveland is a team on the rise, but it’s unheard of to see a team go from 0-16 to Super Bowl champions within a span of just two years. The Browns are building well and trending in the right direction, but I think winning the Super Bowl is a bit too lofty of a goal for next year’s team.
Betting on the Browns to win the AFC North looks like the safer option. BetOnline does not yet have division odds posted, but it won’t be long until those start to pop up. Assuming Cleveland adds some more quality talent to the roster, they should be able to challenge the Steelers and Ravens for AFC North supremacy as soon as next season. Betting on Cleveland to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 54 at +1100 is risky, but I don’t hate that option, either.
If they do get there, winning it won’t be easy. Cleveland would likely have to contend with teams like the Rams, Saints, Eagles, Packers, Vikings, Bears, or Seahawks if they did get that far. Unlike the AFC, the NFC is littered with quality clubs.
For now, I think passing on the Browns to win Super Bowl 54 is the way to go. The lack of elite teams in the conference does give them an outside shot, but until further notice, I think the AFC is the Patriots’ or Chiefs’ to lose. The Browns will be a playoff team in 2019, but it’s too early to start thinking Super Bowl in Cleveland.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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