The Cleveland Browns have gambled big this off-season as they aim to build on a promising 2018 effort, while for Detroit Lions, another tough campaign beckons.
Lions Dominate the Head to Head
The Lions have taken on the Browns 20 times in their NFL history, with their first fixture coming in 1952, and have dominated the rivalry throughout most of that period. They’ve won seven of the last eight, including their latest meeting, two years ago, when they beat the Browns 38-24 at Ford Field. But it’s worth bearing in mind that throughout most of that period the Browns have been one of the poorest sides in the NFL. The current Cleveland outfit is very different.
Browns on the Up
After years as the NFL’s whipping boys, the Browns, led by Baker Mayfield, turned into one of the 2018 season’s success stories. They won five of their last seven and the franchise have gone all in this off-season, bringing in established stars Odell Beckham Jr, Kareem Hunt and Olivier Vernon. They won their first two warm-up games before a narrow loss in Tampa, but they are widely tipped to be a serious play-off contender in the weeks ahead.
Rocky Road for Detroit
Eight weeks into the 2018 season, the Lions had battled to a 3-4 record, but they ended up finishing bottom of the NFC North on 6-10. That decline can be traced to the decision to trade their most reliable receiver, Golden Tate. In his absence, quarterback Matthew Stafford was left with few options and, worryingly for Lions’ fans, their team hasn’t fully replaced Tate. The Lions are likely to be stronger defensively this time round, but they may have to be in order to compensate for a toothless offense, and with a touch early schedule, this could be another season of struggle.
A Chance for Fringe Players
The Browns are heavy favourites here, available at 4/9 but punters planning on lumping on Cleveland should note that the franchise will be using this game to trim their roster down to the regulation 53. That means none of the Browns starters or key back-ups are likely to feature, although that may not be enough to make the Lions an attractive bet at 13/8.