Three years ago, the Cleveland Browns didn’t win a single game. Now, they are trying to win their second playoff game in a week and secure their 13th victory this season.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, it’s been a glorious run for one of West Virginia online sports bettors’ favorite teams.
They are part of an intriguing NFL Divisional playoff schedule. Here are the games:
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Early DraftKings splits
Cleveland has a generous number of points and a healthy share of the DraftKings handle. The Browns obtained 40% of the money by midweek, a higher percentage than many teams gain against the Chiefs.
Otherwise, the splits are:
- Green Bay 84%
- Buffalo 61%
- Tampa Bay 59%
Line shopping is significant, as always. William Hill had the Packers at -6.5, good news for Green Bay bettors. So did FanDuel.
DraftKings put Green Bay at -7. It’s push territory, but a better play for Rams bettors, at +6.5.
The public loves all four overs, with the Browns and Chiefs having the most support. There is an expectation that these teams will march up and down the field. The over of 56, the highest total on the DraftKings board, is supported 89%.
Prop bet possibilities
Prominent Cleveland anytime scoring props include Kareem Hunt, Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry. Tight end Austin Hooper is a good anytime scorer. The passing prop for quarterback Baker Mayfield, especially if the Browns are trailing, could also be interesting.
Kansas City loves to target Tyreek Hill in the first quarter. He’s a popular first-touchdown play. Otherwise, Travis Kelce is a strong scoring threat, and the number of touchdown passes for Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes will be attractive.
Watch for odds boosts closer to the kickoffs.
Browns: A season to savor
Who thought the Browns would be one of the last eight Super Bowl finalists?
They were trounced 38-6 by the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, then demolished 38-7 by the Steelers in midseason.
Later, they were beaten by the one-win New York Jets when a COVID-19 outbreak affected the team in Week 16.
Those moments were offset, however, by plenty of good ones.
The Browns scored 30 points or more in four straight weeks for the first time since the 1960s. That’s the glory age of Cleveland’s last championship and stars like Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Frank Ryan, for those who recall.
This season, Cleveland scored more than 40 points four times. Highlights included 49 points against the Dallas Cowboys and the 38 first-half points leading to a 41-35 win over the Tennessee Titans.
And there was a coming-of-age game, the near triumph against the Ravens on Monday Night Football. In the NFL’s game of the year, the Browns were one play away from victory with two minutes left.
They yielded the go-ahead score, came back to notch a touchdown and then yielded the game-deciding field goal with two seconds left. Then came the lateral show resulting in a safety, lost spread tickets and good karma payouts from many books.
An astounding 20 points were scored in the last two minutes. Bets were won and lost several times.
Two weeks ago, the Browns’ season nearly ended in disappointment. They barely held on to beat the Steelers, who rested some regulars, in the Week 17 finale.
And then they scored 28 first-quarter points against Pittsburgh in the playoff game, an NFL playoff record for the first 15 minutes.
By defeating Pittsburgh in Week 17 to qualify for the postseason, the Browns finally reached their real talent level. And by beating Pittsburgh in the playoffs and capturing their first postseason triumph since 1994, they went one step beyond.
Is there a second?
Baltimore Ravens: Watch out
This team was accurately labeled as the one nobody wanted to play in the postseason.
The Ravens scuffled at 6-5, but then came the bye and a procession of victories.
One of them occurred in the playoffs as they did the unthinkable, holding the league’s top rusher, Derrick Henry, to 40 yards. Henry is the league’s most unstoppable back, but the Ravens jammed the line of scrimmage and took him away.
Baltimore got revenge on the team that knocked them from the playoffs last year and has the look of a ground-oriented, prolific team that can wear opponents down.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson remains a magical show for the Ravens. He rushed for 136 yards and scored a long rushing touchdown. He is the intangible in the game. There is no easy way to contain him in the pocket.
Josh Allen and the Bills have enjoyed an excellent year, and they struggled past the Indianapolis Colts as big favorites last week. The Bills were outgained and surrendered nearly 500 yards. It’s hard to see them doing that against the Ravens and winning.
Rams-Packers opens the playoff slate
The Rams will try to play ball control in 30-degree weather against the explosive Packers. Long, slow, sustained drives will be this team’s meal ticket.
The Rams defense has made that stick by scoring defensive touchdowns in each of their last two games.
Green Bay wants an up-tempo style and an early lead that forces the Rams to adjust from their run-first game.
If you’re thinking of any second-half bets, the Rams are 37-0 under coach Sean McVay when they lead at halftime. Their game plan is to take huge chunks of time off the clock, make other teams impatient and lure mistakes from them.
Green Bay has what might just be an all-world season from Aaron Rodgers. He has 48 touchdowns and just five picks. He has been marvelous to watch this season, moving enough in the pocket to extend plays. That allows his receivers to break off their routes and get open.
Davante Adams is a prolific receiving threat and both a good anytime and first-touchdown threat.
Saints and Bucs feature round 3
When Tom Brady was lured from New England to Tampa Bay in the offseason, the sportsbooks had a wagering feast. The Bucs dropped from 50-1 in some quarters to 14-1. DraftKings lists Tampa Bay as the team for which it has the most liability for the Super Bowl.
This is the game Brady needs to prove the wisdom of the offseason move. Tampa Bay has five straight wins, reached the playoffs and subdued the Washington Football Team. This game is why they got him.
The Bucs have won five straight, all of them after the midseason home trouncing they received from the Saints. New Orleans also defeated Tampa Bay in the season opener.
Look for Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and the suddenly relevant Antonio Brown to provide bet-worthy props for Tampa Bay.
Based on how the Saints have dominated the Bucs, the line would suggest that Tampa Bay will hang around this time.
New Orleans has breakaway receiver Michael Thomas back, and Alvin Kamara must have a good rushing game for the Saints to prevail. Their 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears was not awe-inspiring last week, but it was a win.