Some fans seem to hate preseason action even more than they have having no football at all. And sometimes I get it. Some years there just aren't many interesting storylines or roster battles to bring any intrigue to these games.
But that's absolutely not the case for the Browns' preseason opener tonight. The Hall of Fame Game against the New York Jets doesn't just mark the return of NFL football, but it could be the most interesting game of the entire Browns preseason.
Here's my take on the game, as well as a guide to betting on it for those of you who, like me, simply can't wait until Week 1 to get back in on the action.
Why Browns Fans Should Care About the Jets Game
Kevin Stefanski has made it clear that the Browns are going all-in on this being a game for depth players to fight for depth chart position and roster spots. Deshaun Watson won't play and even Joshua Dobbs won't play.
The message there is that Thursday's game is too far out from the start of the regular season to be a useful "shake the rust off" kind of game for the Browns' top players. And that's the kind of action that is always the most boring in the preseason. Watching Deshaun Watson throw 7 passes on simplified plays where he's just as concerned with not getting hit as he is with completing any passes just isn't interesting.
But for Kellen Mond and Dorian Thompson-Robinson, this might as well be the Super Bowl. They're each slated to get an entire half of action — which could well be the longest unbroken stretch of playing time they get for the next few weeks.
Not playing our top quarterbacks also means this will be the best opportunity to get a long look at some of the team's offensive line depth. We wouldn't want to risk having these guys blocking for Watson, but a QB3/4 game is the perfect time to get extended looks at them.
And these are exactly the kinds of players who will be going all-out. Guys whose jobs are on the line, and who's entire NFL future could hinge on a couple of big plays.
Browns Position Battles to Watch
The quarterback situation is the only one that the team has explicitly laid out, so we can't be 100% sure which battles will be put at center stage on Thursday. These are some of the biggest ones to watch out for though:
- QB3: Kellen Mond vs. Dorian Thompson-Robinson
- RB4: John Kelly vs. Nate McCrary vs. Hassan Hall
- Final Tackle Roster Spot: Tyrone Wheatley Jr. vs. Hunter Thedford
- WR Depth Chart Order: David Bell vs. Cedric Tillman vs. Anthony Schwartz vs. Marquise Goodwin
- TE2: Jordan Akins vs. Harrison Bryant
- DT: Jordan Elliott vs. Siaki Ika
How to Bet Browns vs. Jets
Betting on the NFL preseason is obviously about as imprecise an art as you're going to find, but I actually really like the betting value available in this one.
The Jets won't be playing many starters either, with Zach Wilson getting the nod at QB to open the game, and that could be a very ugly situation.
There's been a ton of roster turnover in New York as they've worked to accommodate every demand Aaron Rodgers has, and this isn't a team that was especially deep to begin with. A shallow, young roster that has little to no experience playing together is not the recipe for preseason success.
The Browns, on the other hand, have a lot of continuity outside of the quarterback spot. Mond and Thompson-Robinson won't have much chemistry built with their teammates yet, but other positions shoudl be clicking pretty well.
The intensity of the battle between Mond and Thompson-Robinson should also really bring out the best in both of their games. Winning might not matter to everyone in the preseason, but with their jobs on the line I wouldn't expect to see either Browns QB avoiding contact or going down easily. And since they're both dangerous with their legs, stretching out some extra first downs by refusing to slide could be enough to push the Browns' offense over the top.
I don't expect either offense to be pretty, but I think this game is pretty close to a coin flip (and maybe I'm being a homer, but I even think the Browns should be the favorites). And so that means my favorite bet is the Browns moneyline for as long as you can get it at plus money. And here's where you can find the best odds on the moneyline:
My other favorite bet here is the UNDER. Like I said, I don't see the Jets offense clicking on any level, while the Browns D may well have it together a bit. And on the other side of the ball even though I think Mond and DRT will do enough to carry Cleveland to a win, it's not like I'm expecting fireworks either. Here's where you can bet to grab the best odds on the over/under:
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Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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