Few NFL experts would argue the Cleveland Browns significantly improved their roster this offseason.
Some popular NFL pundits have gone as far as to list the Browns as a worthy Super Bowl bet.
And they won’t find many fans in Northern Ohio disputing that notion, either.
"[Cleveland] could be the dark-horse Super Bowl team. And it's so crazy that I'm saying that about the Cleveland Browns, but it's legit!"
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) April 13, 2021
After racking up 11 regular-season wins in 2020, the sky appears to be the limit in Kevin Stefanski’s second go-round.
Throw in a 17th game, and who would doubt the Browns will win at least 13-14 games in 2021?
Well, pretty much every expert in Las Vegas would doubt it, according to their projected NFL win totals.
Back on March 31st, after the bulk of Andrew Berry’s free agency haul, Vegas released their opening predictions.
And fans were probably stunned to see the Cleveland Browns’ line set at 9.5 victories.
British betting giant, Williams Hill Sports Books, released the first update since the Jadeveon Clowney signing.
Williams Hill has released its projected win totals for the 2021 NFL season.
1. Chiefs: 12
2. Bucs: 11.5
T-3. Packers/Ravens: 11
T-5. Bills/Rams: 10.5
T-1. Lions/Texans: 5
T-3. Jets/Jaguars: 6
5. Bengals: 6.5 pic.twitter.com/8OT1YGoz1d
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 16, 2021
They set the bar at 10 victories, and most bettors predict the rest of the Vegas lines will similarly adjust.
But 10 victories for a drastically improved team coming off an 11-5 effort?
You might remember the 2019 preseason betting frenzy when millions bet on the Browns to make the playoffs.
Such a low win projection could bring those bettors back to the Browns in an effort to recoup those losses.
But should we believe the Browns will beat the 2021 Vegas projection of 10 wins?
It’s Not All About Last Year
At first glance, winning more games seems like a reasonable expectation.
Everybody knows the defense was the Browns’ weakness last year.
And Andrew Berry brought in some ringers to correct that situation.
But projecting win totals isn’t only about comparing one season’s roster to the next.
2021 Cleveland #Browns opponents
What’s your favourite 🤩 game you want to see ???
— Paul Brown 🇬🇧 Browns fan🏈 London News 🎥Vlogger (@PaulBrown_UK) January 4, 2021
It is about comparing the rosters and projections of the Browns’ opponents, too.
Last year, Cleveland faced one of the weakest slates of opponents in the league.
The situation changes this time around, with the AFC North facing some of the NFL’s strongest competition.
Last year’s non-divisional opponents combined for 60 wins, while this year’s original opponents won 78 games.
That is not including the 17th game opponent, Arizona, and their 8 wins.
And the projected win total of the Browns’ 2021 opponents is actually higher, set at 88.5 by the Vegas experts.
How Much Better Are The Browns?
If the Browns are going to win more games this season, it stands to reason they need to be a better team.
Not only will the defense need to be faster and cover better, but the offense needs to pick up where it left off.
Kevin Stefanski promises a more explosive attack this time around, and he has the weapons to deliver on that.
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) April 15, 2021
Cleveland brought back JoJo Natson and Ryan Switzer to see if the return game can improve.
But with the booming offenses of the AFC West and Green Bay looming, what about that defense?
Last year around this time, we thought Andrew Berry provided the key pieces Joe Woods needed.
But injuries can derail the best of plans despite the best efforts of the next man up.
That being said, everything about 2021 feels different.
Clowney on what made the #Browns so appealing: "They win."
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) April 14, 2021
Not only did Berry sign the top safety, top slot corner, and an excellent edge rusher, but also the IR list is empty.
Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit are like bonus additions for Joe Woods to fit into the puzzle.
With reasonable luck and health, Cleveland projects to be a top-5 defensive team… on paper.
Is Vegas Dissing The Browns?
Despite the Browns’ tougher schedule, there is still reason to believe Vegas isn’t sold on the Browns resurgence.
Every team in the AFC North faces the AFC West and NFC North along with the Browns.
But the Ravens are projected to win about the same number of games despite an unimpressive free agency period.
And the Bengals are among the biggest projected jumpers, protected to win 6.5 games after last season’s 4.
In the Bengals’ case, their improvement is probably based on a full season of Joe Burrows under center.
"[The Cleveland Browns] are contenders to win the Super Bowl!"
— First Take (@FirstTake) April 15, 2021
If there is anything Browns fans and Vegas agree on, it is that the Steelers will take the biggest tumble in win totals.
On the opening line, the Ravens win total is set at 11.5, followed by the Browns, Steelers (8.5), and Bengals.
But even Vegas knows their win totals are less than perfect, and they are hedging on the Browns.
While betting odds are adjusted based on the number of bets placed, Cleveland opened with the worst payout.
And right now, the “over” bet on the Browns is tied with the Eagles (6.5) for the lowest value.
Fans have to bet $15 to win $10 on the over, while those taking the under can win $12.30 on a $10 bet.
That indicates most bettors agree with us that the Browns will beat the Vegas prediction of 10 wins in 2021.