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Being a Cleveland Browns fan may be one of the most depressing things in sports. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have had just two winning seasons, and their last playoff appearance came in 2002. Meanwhile, the team that left Cleveland for Baltimore and became the Ravens has captured two Super Bowl wins during that stretch. The Browns continued their struggles last season as they finished in last place in the AFC North yet again. They started out winless over their first five games (going 2-2-1 against the spread), which really came as no surprise. But in the next eight games, Cleveland managed to go 5-3 and became very profitable for the team's backers with a 6-2 ATS mark. The Browns closed out the season on a sour note though, getting blown out in their final three games of the season and also failing to cover all three against the number, finishing 5-11 overall.
Cleveland had two first round picks in the 2012 NFL draft, taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the third overall selection and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden 22nd overall. Richardson lived up to most of the hype with a solid rookie year for the Browns, carrying the ball 267 times for 950 yards to go along with 51 receptions for 367 yards and 12 touchdowns. But Weeden was a huge disappointment, as the 28-year-old rookie totaled just 3,385 yards through the air, and he threw more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (14). Weeden has a lot to prove to Cleveland's management this upcoming season if he hopes to remain the starter for the future. Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon was also a pleasant surprise for the team, giving the Browns a positive offensive boost with 50 catches for 805 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, they got some negative news in the offseason when Gordon was suspended two games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Gordon was not the only one making news since last season. Cleveland fired head coach Pat Shurmur after he went 9-23 in two years on the sideline. General Manager Tom Heckert was also let go after a three-season tenure filled with disappointment. The Browns chose to hire Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach and also brought in former San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner to be their new offensive coordinator. Cleveland also upgraded the defense with former Ravens linebacker Paul Krueger and a pair of former Oakland Raiders in defensive tackle Desmond Bryant and linebacker Quentin Groves, who will both fit in quite nicely with the new 3-4 scheme the team will run under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. The Browns were able to add another piece to the defense in the NFL draft, taking LSU standout Barkevious Mingo with the sixth overall pick. They also signed a pair of free-agent receivers in David Nelson and Devone Bess, providing more weapons for Weeden and this sub-par offense. If Weeden fails to deliver, either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer could step in after signing with Cleveland to essentially serve as insurance policies.
The oddsmakers at 5Dimes have the Browns set at O/U 6 wins for this season. This number looks to be right on the money, as the team added some nice pieces this offseason and should be an improved football team but is still a few years away from being true playoff contenders.
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