Can Browns Deliver On Potential Of Loaded Roster In 2023?
Deshaun Watson fell flat on his face in his return to football after more than a year away. Yet, the Cleveland Browns continue to do an admirable job accumulating talent. It’s fair to say they have one of the best rosters in football. But Cleveland Browns odds remain on the longer side in a loaded AFC North. With a giant question mark at QB, how should bettors approach Browns betting for 2023?
2022 Browns Key Advanced Stats & RankINGS
|Stat||Browns Value (League Rank)|
|Offense DVOA||+8.6% (8)|
|Defense DVOA||+3.8% (23)|
|Special Teams DVOA||+0.5% (14)|
|Rush Offense EPA/Play||+0.002 (5)|
|Rush Defense EPA/Play||+0.045 (32)|
|Pass Offense EPA/Play||+0.021 (17)|
|Pass Defense EPA/Play||+0.017 (13)|
DVOA via Football Outsiders, EPA/play via RBSDM database
Notable Browns Offseason Moves
We’ll start with changes the Browns roster has undergone for the 2023 season. Keep in mind that minor moves will still occur. Useful veterans will become available following releases from other teams, and key injuries will crop up, both to the Browns and their opponents. But here’s where things stand as of mid-August.
- Key additions: WR Elijah Moore, WR Cedric Tillman, EDGE Za’Darius Smith, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Trysten Hill, DT Shelby Harris, EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, S Juan Thornhill, S Rodney McLeod
- Key losses: QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Kareem Hunt, EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, DT Taven Bryan, S John Johnson III, CB Greedy Williams
Everything starts up front, and Cleveland figures to have an edge over basically any defense they face there. Once again, the Browns sport one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They block very well in passing and running situations, which sets up the rest of the offense for success regardless of the play call or down and distance.
Last year, the running game was among the league’s most effective. And with Nick Chubb healthy, that should continue.
The question is, what type of form will Watson bring? Last year, Jacoby Brissett easily outperformed him, a shocking development even considering Watson’s layoff. After all, it’s no stretch to say he was among the best QBs in the league prior to his trade demand and long, long list of sexual assault allegations and settlements.
He has a fairly solid group of pass catchers, in addition to having an excellent running game to take pressure off him. Amari Cooper continues to produce like a borderline star even as he nears his 30s. Donovan Peoples-Jones is a decent deep specialist, and David Njoku has done good work in the red zone. Cedric Tillman and Elijah Moore were solid talent adds. The latter came cheaply after the Jets coaching staff soured on him. He showed flashes at times.
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Not included in the above personnel changes, but perhaps the most important move the Browns made in the offseason: jettisoning Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods. Cleveland had a strong defense on paper, but opposing running games ransacked this unit. It’s hard to see how things went with this roster and see anything but a coaching failure.
In comes veteran coordinator Jim Schwartz, who represents an upgrade of some kind. Given the talent on hand, there’s no excuse for this unit to be anything other than elite.
Again, starting up front, few teams will field higher-quality pass rushers. Myles Garrett is as good as they come, Za’Darius Smith remains productive, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is a more than worthy third banana. New DTs Shelby Harris and Dalvin Tomlinson should shore up the leaky run D.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has looked like a star at times but struggled with injury.
The secondary features a star at CB in Denzel Ward. KC import Juan Thornhill arrives and brings solid coverage skills at safety.
Quality depth exists pretty much across the board here as well.
Browns Schedule And Odds For Every Game
Early betting markets can show us what to expect for the Browns’ game-to-game chances of victory. These numbers will change massively, but they’re still a useful tool.
Converting these spreads to moneylines, one comes up with approximately 9.1 projected market wins for the Browns.
The win total market number of has pretty heavy juice (generally around -130) on the under at the majority of the shops. So, that tracks with this number, although perhaps given the price, the market leans a tad pessimistic on the Browns.
Despite the modest win total, Super Bowl odds of do give the Browns some respect. Sure, they remain a fairly long shot, but that number sits just behind teams like the Chargers, Jaguars, and Dolphins, which have real hopes for contention. That reflects the strength of the roster if Watson can turn back the clock a bit.
Possible Offseason Bets On Browns Odds For 2023
On paper, the Browns might have the best roster in the AFC North. They have better talent on offense than everyone but the Bengals and probably the most talented defense.
Yet, they sit with pretty long odds, not far ahead of the Steelers in the market’s basement.
Even a Browns optimist must admit this team has wide error bars around its expected range of outcomes. A loaded roster can only go so far if Watson does not at least make strides toward his prior level of play. Watson playing at his 2018-2020 level would probably make this team a Super Bowl contender, provided Schwartz and the new additions bring the run defense to the realm of reasonable.
However, Watson was flat-out awful last year. And if that continues, then the Browns are likely sunk.
Therefore, I prefer to look for longer prices when betting on the Browns. Since I really do believe in the talent on the roster, I think a bet around +400 on Cleveland to win the division fits the bill. It’s a better price than you’ll find in the alternate wins market for a number that would likely win the North.
How Good Can This Browns Defense Be?
The run defense from Cleveland was so awful, but it seems like such a simple fix that I think the market is sleeping a bit on how good this unit can be in 2023. Schwartz, Tomlinson, and Harris should raise that unit to competence. And hopefully, Schwartz can get a little more out of a pass rush that underperformed despite the brilliant play of Garrett.
The Browns also play a schedule heavy on outdoor games and cold weather. Many of their home games will fit that description while adding the element of possible high-wind scenarios that have popped up in recent years. The Browns only play indoors three times all season. And two of their later road games come in Denver and Cincinnati.
The schedule doesn’t include a particularly scary group of opposing QBs, either. Only Joe Burrow really causes fear, along with maybe a healthy Lamar Jackson, which seems like a 50/50 proposition these days. Trevor Lawrence and Aaron Rodgers may fit as well, though we’ll see how they perform.
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