This might not be the way Cleveland Browns fans awaiting their first chance to place legal bets wanted it — by wagering on a team with no playoff hopes and headed for its 14th losing season of the past 15.
But nothing says that when retail and online sportsbooks across Ohio start taking wagers early Sunday, bets must be placed on the Browns, even if you’re a fan. Betting against them can ensure a certain satisfaction either way — at least in your wallet, if not your heart.
And as destiny would have it, oddsmakers see the Browns’ visit to FedEx Field at 1 p.m. Sunday as one likely to bring a close contest against the Washington Commanders, so a case can be made for betting on either team’s moneyline as well as point spread. Cleveland is an underdog, but by less than a field goal at all of the sites about to make their Ohio debut at 12:01 a.m. Sunday or soon after.
The Browns game on this opening day of legal wagering illustrates the value of line shopping among the many sites that are available. While FanDuel listed the Browns Friday morning as just a 1.5-point underdog, a Cleveland bettor would be much better off using the 2.5 points offered by PointsBet and DraftKings.
Caesars Sportsbook was among those listing just a +105 moneyline return for betting on the Browns to win, but BetMGM and FanDuel were among those offering +110. That’s a $1 difference in potential return for every $20 wagered.
And while many sites listed 40.5 as the points total, a bettor who likes the “over” for the game could instead use BetMGM’s total of 40, and an “under” bettor would be wise to use Caesars’ 41.
Other variations will show up among the sportsbooks once they post player props for the game, and they will have a range of different “odds boosts,” bonus bets, and welcome offers for new customers. Taking advantage of different options from multiple sites gives any bettor a greater chance of overcoming the odds that generally give the house an edge.
And any bettor who doesn’t like the odds on the Browns game can wait until Monday Night Football, with the Bengals an underdog by 1 to 1.5 points hosting the Buffalo Bills, or choose from scads of other options Sunday on the rest of the NFL or other sports.
Game affects’ Commanders playoff hopes
As for Cleveland’s penultimate game, there’s a lot more riding on it for the Commanders than the Browns.
At 7-7-1, Washington remains playoff-bound if it can win its last two games, even though it is 0-2-1 in its last three, including last weekend’s 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Cleveland’s slim playoff hopes vanished entirely Saturday in brutal conditions at FirstEnergy Stadium, with an equally brutal 17-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a game the Browns had led 10-0.
#Browns dropped 2 passes that would’ve tied the game on that last drive.
Instead Deshaun Watson gets sacked on 4th down to seal #Saints 17-10 win.
Cleveland just lost to a dome team in the 3rd coldest game in team history. So much for that “cold weather” advantage.🙈
— John Sabol (@John_Sabol) December 24, 2022
Deshaun Watson is now 2-2 as a starter for Cleveland, and he still has only two touchdown passes in those games, one fewer than his number of interceptions.
The Commanders have their own quarterback issues in light of their recent stumbles. Carson Wentz relieved Tyler Heinicke in the fourth quarter against the 49ers, and coach Ron Rivera has named Wentz the starter this Sunday in “looking for a bit of a spark.”
Washington was only 2-4 with Wentz as a starter early this season before he was sidelined by a broken finger, but he completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a TD late in the game in San Francisco.
Carson Wentz is back. … pic.twitter.com/tUYJa3kJLQ
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano) December 25, 2022
Despite their exit from playoff contention, the Browns have a chance to play spoiler, and they may rely on Nick Chubb to do it. He ran for 92 yards on 24 carries against New Orleans, and the Commanders gave up 153 rushing yards to the 49ers.
The sportsbooks will be posting an over/under on Chubb’s rushing total by Sunday morning, in addition to wide-ranging other options. For now, DraftKings lists him as the player most likely to score a TD anytime in the game, with odds of -125 to do so.
Photo: Ken Blaze/USA TODAY