Quarterback Baker Mayfield has played a key role in the Cleveland Browns’ fast start, but can he lead the team to their first NFL playoff berth in 18 years? Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire.
- Riding a three-game win streak, the Cleveland Browns have vaulted past New England in the odds to make NFL playoffs
- A red-hot offense and an enviable schedule favor the Browns, while the Patriots struggle to rebound from a COVID-19 outbreak that threatens their season
- See the odds and trends as the AFC playoff race heats up
The Cleveland Browns are enjoying their first 3-1 start in two decades, and are finally getting a little recognition at the sportsbooks. Fresh off a wild 49-38 win in Dallas last weekend, the Browns now sit among the favorites in the AFC to make the playoffs, moving past the New England Patriots as a solid -177 bet in the NFL playoff odds.
Odds to Make 2020-21 NFL Playoffs
|Team||Odds to Make NFL Playoffs||Odds to Miss NFL Playoffs|
|New England Patriots||-167||+137|
Odds taken October 7, 2020
Browns Hitting Their Stride
The Browns offense has hit its stride the last three weeks. The squad has rebounded from a demoralizing 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, racking up an impressive 39.33 points per game in three straight victories to move into the AFC playoff picture.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has quietly and effectively managed the impressive set of offensive tools at his disposal. Mayfield has tossed for seven scores against just two picks, and has received a big assist from the backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem hunt, who have racked up a combined 610 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
Baker Mayfield doesn’t care when the last time the Browns were 3-1. 😂#OUDNA | #Browns pic.twitter.com/t9FzVDcrID
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) October 4, 2020
The results have been dramatic. Cleveland opened the season as a +114 bet, on average, to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and were still only -107 ahead of their date with Dallas. Now in the thick of the divisional race, the Browns have also made up substantial ground in the odds to win the AFC North, where they currently sit as an intriguing +563 bet.
Patriots Facing Nightmare Scenario
Conversely, what started as a hopeful campaign in New England has turned into a nightmare for the Patriots, who saw their odds to make the playoffs fall from -235 entering Week 4 to -167 following Monday night’s 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now sporting a 2-2 record, the Patriots are reeling after seeing multiple players test positive for COVID-19, including quarterback Cam Newton. With uncertainty as to how wide the novel coronavirus has spread through the locker room, the status of the Patriots’ Week 5 date with the Denver Broncos is in doubt.
With a bye scheduled for Week 6, the potential exists for a long layoff, both from game action and practice, which could have lasting repercussions.
The Patriots have canceled their Thursday practice and will work remotely again.
If they play as scheduled on Sunday vs. the Broncos, it will be with just one normal practice.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 7, 2020
While there is no good time for a COVID-19 outbreak, it comes at a particularly bad time for New England. Following their bye week, the Patriots have a difficult mid-season stretch that features matchups with San Francisco, Buffalo, Baltimore, and Arizona. That is followed by a two-week stay in Los Angeles, with clashes against the Rams and Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
Of course, the Patriots also enjoy three more favorable divisional games with the New York Jets (twice) and Miami Dolphins, as well as the free-falling Houston Texans. But right now, it is tough seeing them keep pace with the rejuvenated Browns.
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Next Two Weeks a Tough Test for Browns
Cleveland has enjoyed a favorable schedule to start the season, which the team has taken full advantage of, and can look forward to more of the same. The Browns do face a tough test in Week 5 as they take on an Indianapolis Colts squad coming off their first road win in a year, followed by a crucial clash in Pittsburgh in Week 6.
With Nick Chubb reportedly nursing a knee injury, the team’s depth could be severely tested. But while the Colts have racked up a 3-1 record, they have been far from dominant against what should have been inferior competition. As for the undefeated Steelers, they have harshly felt the impact of the Tennessee Titans’ current COVID-19 struggles, which forced them to reschedule their bye for this past weekend on very short notice.
Roethlisberger: “It’s tough, especially for someone like myself who was just starting to get back into the flow of things,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not easy, but you’ve got to adjust. You’ve got to adapt and do the best you can.”https://t.co/g3FkzGub4V https://t.co/OW2l8aA5Yu
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 7, 2020
Steelers pivot Ben Roethlisberger has been particularly frustrated by the schedule changes, which have disrupted his rhythm after missing most of last season due to injury. The Browns have dipped in the NFL SOS, but still enjoy an enviable second-half schedule that features dates with Houston, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and both the New York Jets and Giants.
That schedule does not guarantee them a division title, but it certainly leaves the Browns far better positioned for a playoff run, and makes the current +137 odds of New England missing the playoffs a decent value bet.
Best Bet: Patriots to miss the NFL playoffs (+137)
Daniel has been writing about sports and sports betting for over 23 years. The seasoned pro has contributed to the likes of Sports Illustrated, Sportsnet, NESN, Bleacher Report, OddsShark, the Globe and Mail, and The Nation magazine.