Oh, What A Night: Cleveland Browns End 26-Year Drought, Help Set NFL Betting Record

Posted By Derek Helling on January 12, 2021 - Last Updated on January 21, 2021

The city of Cleveland — if not the entire state of Ohio — had plenty to celebrate Sunday.

After all, its beloved Browns knocked off the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers to record the franchise’s first playoff win in over 25 years.

And for people who backed the Browns on a moneyline or point-spread bet prior to the day’s NFL Wild Card showdown, it was a great end to the weekend.

The same went for one well-known legal sportsbook operating in nearby Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Browns-Steelers contest broke a DraftKings Sportsbook NFL betting record.

That game is now the most-bet NFL game in the sportsbook’s history. Yet the exciting thing for DraftKings — and other sportsbooks in those states — is that it may not retain that title for long.

Details on the new DraftKings NFL betting record

For some, the win over Pittsburgh was difficult to see coming. Cleveland hadn’t won a playoff game since 1994. The Browns were without their head coach, two assistant coaches and two players due to COVID-19.

However, events of the weekend foreshadowed tremendous betting activity on Sunday night.

The previous five wild card playoff games all now sit in the top 10 NFL contests ever on DraftKings, both by number of bets and handle. The Steelers, having won just one of their previous four games heading into the playoffs, were trending downward and facing a Cleveland team it had lost to just seven days earlier.

Veteran bookmaker Johnny Avello, director of DraftKings Sportsbook, read the writing on the wall for the tremendous number of wagers for Browns-Steelers.

“I thought it (the most-bet game of the wild card weekend) would be the Browns game,” Avello said. “Because of the position of the game; it was a late game on a Sunday night, all the parlays going into that game, and it had a lot of interest because of the Steelers.

“It wasn’t a surprise that it was the biggest game of the weekend but the handle was remarkable. That just shows you how people really embrace the playoffs.”

Wild Card game rivals Super Bowl

In terms of handle, Sunday’s Cleveland-Pittsburgh game now ranks second among NFL bouts all-time on DraftKings. Only Super Bowl LIV has accounted for more dollars wagered so far.

Avello said the point-spread money went on the Steelers (which lost), and for the total, the money was on the over (which hit). Avello also noted that in-game wagers continue to account for larger shares of total bets and handle.

As much as the popularity of the Steelers contributed to this record number of bets, their elimination shouldn’t be an obstacle to further growth. As a matter of fact, the time slot of games may have more significance.

Will Buccaneers-Saints quickly erase the Browns-Steelers record?

The same recipe for success seems to be brewing for this weekend.

Two teams with national notoriety are set to clash on Sunday night. While the three previous playoff games boast star power as well, Avello likes the chances that the last game of the weekend will set a new record.

“If I had to pick one, it would be the Bucs and Saints,” Avello commented. “No team is bigger than the playoffs themselves. I don’t think Pittsburgh fans saw their team going that far, anyway. They hadn’t been playing well as of late. When you look at who’s left here, all these teams deserve to be here. Bettors will just switch teams out and bet this weekend on who they like.”

If that does happen, it will act as an accelerant on what’s already been a record-setting NFL season for DraftKings. Will the Browns continue to contribute to those new marks past this weekend’s game in Kansas City? DraftKings has an opinion on that, of course.

NFL betting odds for Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs

Right now at DraftKings, Cleveland stands as a 10-point underdog against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs. The line on the total sits at 56 points, with slightly better odds (-109) on the over. A Cleveland win would pay +390 on the moneyline.

There’s some reason to believe Cleveland may cover. The Browns have the third-highest average rushing yards per game in the NFL. And that offense goes up against a Kansas City run defense that ranked 21st. Additionally, the Chiefs were just 4-4 against the spread in home games this season.

However, Cleveland went 7-10 ATS, and they face the league’s top passing offense on the road Sunday.

While the Browns may not pull off the miracle win in Kansas City, for now, they have the distinction of being part of the most heavily bet-on NFL game in DraftKings history.

Photo by AP / Justin Berl
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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