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Browns remain favored to win AFC North Division

The Cleveland Browns have been given the best odds to win the 2019 AFC North Division Championship.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have been given the best odds to win the 2019 AFC North Division Championship.

According to SportsBetting.ag, the Browns are a +100 to win the AFC North Division, which would be their first division championship since 1989, when they clamed their fourth AFC Central Division title over a five-year period.

“Sharp bettors are backing the Browns in the AFC North as odds have gone from +140 to +100,” read the press release announcing the odds. “Cleveland had +1500 odds to win the division last year. The Browns have also received the most Super Bowl LIV bets.”

After the Browns, the current odds for the AFC North Division title have the Pittsburgh Steelers at +190. defending champ Baltimore Ravens at +375 and Cincinnati Bengals at +1600.

Credit: Matt Florjancic
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws after rolling out of the pocket during a drill at organized team activities practice at team headquarters in Berea Thursday.

The Steelers, Ravens and Bengals saw significant drops in their odds to win the AFC North Division Championship over the last two months. Conversely, the Browns have seen their odds go from +140 to +100.

Unlike past years, there is reason for Browns fans to be optimistic heading into the 2019 season.

At 2-5-1 following a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 28 and in the middle of an unprecedented midseason coaching staff upheaval following the dismissals of Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the 2018 Browns looked to be anything but a team capable of the greatest year-to-year turnaround in franchise history.

But a 5-3 record over the second half of the season and three-game winning streak in December secured the Browns’ greatest single-year turnaround in team history, as they finished plus-7.5 in victories over 2017’s winless campaign.

Also, there is the matter of having the starting quarterback figured out after 20 years of searching for the next “franchise” signal-caller, as no rookie in the near 100-year history of the NFL has thrown more touchdowns passes than Baker Mayfield.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield broke the rookie record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.

After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

Under the direction of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, the interim offensive coordinator for the second half of the 2018 season, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Credit: Matt Florjancic
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass in the final minicamp practice of the offseason program at team headquarters in Berea.

Then, there is the presence of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in an offense that features fellow Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry, athletic tight end David Njoku and a three-pronged attack at running back with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Duke Johnson Jr.

Over 59 regular-season games, including 56 starts, in five years with the New York Giants, Beckham Jr. turned 390 receptions into 5,476 yards and 44 touchdowns. Beckham Jr. averaged 92.8 yards per game, including a league-best 108.8 during the 2014 season.

Last year, Beckham Jr. had a 77-catch, 1,052-yard, six-touchdown performance for the Giants.

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