CLEVELAND — There are plenty of good feelings about the Cleveland Browns heading into the 2019 season because of the offseason acquisition of Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the development shown by quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second half of 2018.
But one sports book in Las Vegas, is not so convinced.
The SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas considered the Browns a -120 favorite to extend the NFL’s longest active postseason drought to 17 years despite them having the best odds (+140) to win the AFC North Division.
“It's a really tough division,” SuperBook director John Murray told ESPN, as written in a story by Ben Fawkes. “I think people are making a mistake if they write the Steelers off, the Ravens should be solid again and the Bengals can't help but be better with Marvin Lewis gone.”
Despite the odds, Browns fans have plenty of reason 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 a three-game winning streak in December secured the Browns’ greatest year-to-year turnaround, 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.
No rookie in the near 100-year history of the NFL has thrown more touchdowns passes than Mayfield.
Mayfield broke the NFL record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore 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 Kitchens’ direction when he took over as 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.
Mayfield averaged 281.75 yards and 2.375 touchdowns per game with Kitchens calling the plays.
Although Mayfield does not get official credit for the victory over the Jets because he came on in relief of injured starter Tyrod Taylor, the first-year quarterback guided the Browns to seven wins and the greatest single-year turnaround in franchise history.
Individually, Mayfield set franchise records for the most passing touchdowns and yards by a rookie, and his 3,725 yards rank as the sixth-best single-season total in team history, regardless of years of service. Additionally, Mayfield had three of the top five passing yards games by a rookie, as well as the fourth-most accurate season of any Browns quarterback ever.