Hue Jackson this season becomes the eighth Browns head coach since the team moved back to Cleveland in 1999
The Cleveland Browns have a new head coach this year in Hue Jackson, and a likely new starting quarterback in Robert Griffin III. The sky is the limit for a team that won just three games in 2015 but from a realistic point of view, Cleveland will be hard pressed to record more than four straight-up wins in the season ahead. As likely dogs in all 16 games, this team is already shaping up like an ‘upset special’ under the right circumstances.
LAST YEAR’S RECORD & 2016 NFL FUTURES
Win-Loss: 3-13 SU and 6-10 ATS
Over/Under: 7-8-1 O/U
Noteworthy: The Browns were outscored 27.0 to 17.4 in 2015 (-9.6), the greatest ‘Average Margin of Defeat’ in the league.
In a lot of ways, the 2016 Browns resemble an oft-troubled addict that was just released from a rehab clinic, eager to make a fresh start in life. The obsession for this franchise was poor decisions, one after the next, but unlike their perpetually delinquent former QB Johnny Manziel, the prospect of this group actually staying on course seems believable.
Jackson comes over from the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator. In previous stops with the Skins, Falcons and Raiders, Jackson had decent success calling the offense but 2015 was a breakout year for both he and Andy Dalton. We can expect a balanced mix of rush-pass with the Browns this season and RBs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will get their touches. Presuming RG3 starts, the goal will be to keep him in one piece through 16 games but Cleveland’s O-Line ranks as one of the worst in the league.
Ray Horton is back for a second stint as Browns defensive coordinator and he’ll look to improve a pass rush that managed only 29 sacks last season (28th). Horton made progress with this team in 2013 and his front seven was a strength of the Titans D the past two seasons.
Cleveland faces some solid O-Lines its first four weeks (Eagles, Ravens, Skins) and two of those games are on the road. Circle the Week 3 trip to Miami (19th ranked O-Line) and Week 6 matchup at Tennessee (23rd ranked O-Line) for chances where this unit could potentially have a significant impact on the game.
Horton coached the Steelers secondary from 2004-10 when they were 87-38 SU including 10-3 SU in the playoffs (two Super Bowl wins), but Hall of Fame playmakers were key. Right now, the Browns are planning to start Tramon Williams and Joe Haden (Check status) at corner, so expectations are ‘average’ at best.
BROWNS BOTTOM LINE: UNDER “DAWG” VALUE
The early line for Cleveland’s Week 7 game at Cincinnati favors the Bengals by -11.5 points. Cinci has taken three-straight against the Browns and divisional road teams seeking triple revenge are generally being undervalued by bettors. History shows a 82-56-2 ATS (59-percent) record for road teams in this spot (any line) and when its the first meeting of the season, that mark improves to 64-percent ATS. Cinci is off a big game vs. the Patriots and the Bengals have played a tough schedule to this point. It sets up potential value on the Browns as double-digit dogs.