It wasn’t long ago that the Cleveland Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL.
If you’re new here, here’s a refresher. In 2017 the Browns became just the second team in NFL history to go 0–16. The only other team to garner that mark of futility was the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Browns fans were so used to being a tortured, they even threw a parade for the “perfect” winless season.
It’s not like expectation were sky-high. The team didn’t do much better in 2016, only winning a single game, finishing 1-15. That’s one win over two seasons, which was apparently enough for Hue Jackson to keep his job.
But then things started to turn in the corner in 2018, when the Browns drafted quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick and finally parted ways with Jackson mid-season. The Browns finished 7-8, winning five of their last seven contests and just missing the playoffs.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Browns are suddenly being talked about as Super Bowl contenders, mostly thanks to a tremendous offseason executed by general manager John Dorsey.
Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon and Kareem Hunt came to Cleveland to combine forces with a young core than includes Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett. The excitement has Browns fans ready to keep the Dawg Pound at capacity all season and packing their paper bags away for good.
The team also seems to have plenty of faith in first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, who was hired in January.
Kitchens — a former quarterback at the University of Alabama — had quite the rise to prominence as well. Kitchens started 2018 as the Browns running backs coach and ended it as a respected offensive coordinator, eventually being picked to replace interim head coach Gregg Williams
“It takes some guts to do what they did,” Kitchens said after being hired. “And I appreciate that. I won’t let them down, and all you have to do is sit back and watch. Because I know that I am not a popular choice. I understand that, and I don’t care.”
Mayfield excelled once Kitchens took over the play-calling duties on offense midway through the season. Cleveland averaged 23.8 points per game with Kitchens calling the plays and scored on 79.2 percent of its red zone trips. That should only improve with the new weapons in the Browns’ arsenal.
Vegas agrees that the Browns are in for quite the season. Cleveland has the best odds to win the AFC North and are tied for the fourth-best odds to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIV. The Browns are 16-1 to win the Super Bowl.