Browns Or Bengals: Is Either Ohio NFL Team A Super Bowl Threat?

Written By Evan Dammarell on December 17, 2021

What Ohio fans of both of the state’s NFL teams really want for Christmas this year is for their team to win the Super Bowl. But, it seems like they’re still being steered toward a lump of coal.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cleveland Browns (7-6) have a +1600 chance to win the AFC, while the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) are just behind them at +2000. Both teams’ chances to win the Super Bowl seem like a stretch, too, with FanDuel Sportsbook saying the Browns have a +4100 chance of bringing home their first Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals are currently at +4400.

So if you were to drive to Michigan (since sports betting isn’t legal in Ohio yet) or another neighboring state and place $100 on either team, you’d win handsomely if they reached the Super Bowl or won it all. If Cleveland won the AFC, you would profit $1,600. The same logic applies to winning the Super Bowl as well.

Although neither team has the best odds of making, or winning, the Super Bowl, we’ll be breaking down how plausible either team’s chances really are as we inch closer to an Ohio sports betting launch sometime between now and 2023.

Super Bowl, Super Browns?

After their win last week over the Baltimore Ravens, it felt Cleveland’s destiny was in its own hands to make the playoffs. That’s still wild to think about, given how disappointing this season has seemed. All the Browns needed to do was win out the remainder of their schedule to guarantee that spot. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came crashing through the organization like the Kool-Aid man, with 20 Browns players now sidelined for Saturday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Interestingly enough, Las Vegas is only a 1.5-point favorite despite the majority of Cleveland’s offense being sidelined. There’s a chance the Browns can still win this game, but it’s going to be because of their defense. Myles Garrett, who has +300 odds to win defensive player of the year, has been stopping opposing offenses and carrying Cleveland all season long.

But it won’t just be against the Raiders when Garrett needs to shine. The Browns are 6.5-point underdogs to the Green Bay Packers the following week. Sure, that can change if Aaron Rodgers is unavailable, but it’s still a tough opponent for Cleveland on Christmas Day.

After that, the Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers and then close out the season at home against the Bengals.

As mentioned before, all games should be characterized as must-wins for the Browns from here on out. Sure, the defense will have to step up, but the offense isn’t hopeless.

Even though Cleveland is down starting quarterback Baker Mayfield against Las Vegas, they still thankfully Nick Chubb. Chubb is Cleveland’s leading rusher for a Browns team that prides itself on establishing the run game early. The Browns should fully lean into that strategy with Mayfield out and continue to do so when he returns. Cleveland’s offense needs to play to its strengths in order to win, and Chubb will make that possible.

If the Browns can do that, along with Garrett being Garrett, then Cleveland has a shot to make the playoffs. The win over the Ravens was a new lease on life. This season felt dead in the water, but now, there are possibilities.

All they need to do is get past the Raiders and stay healthy. If they do, then Cleveland fans have reason to be optimistic.

Who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?

Like the Browns, the Bengals have been one of the more surprising teams this season. Unlike Cleveland, it’s because many didn’t expect Cincinnati to be in the position they’re in. Sitting at 7-6, the Bengals have been a revelation under star quarterback Joe Burrow.

Sure, it helps that Burrow has so many offensive weapons to throw to in head coach Zac Taylor’s offense. But, Burrow’s arm and grit have kept Cincinnati in countless games this season.

That’s why the Bengals are primed for a playoff run. The first two games on the remainder of Cincinnati’s schedule aren’t as daunting as Cleveland’s — with a trip to Denver and then Baltimore at home on the docket. The Bengals are a 2.5-point underdog against the Broncos, but that doesn’t feel right. Denver isn’t as good as its own 7-6 record implies and it should be a winnable matchup for Cincinnati.

The same can be said for the Ravens, who are currently reeling as of late. But the Bengals are 2.5 point favorites at home.

After that, Cincinnati gets the pleasure of hosting Patrick Mahomes and the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs, winners of seven straight as of this writing. Unlike the Browns, the Bengals have one of the worst passing defense in the league. On average, Cincinnati allows 256.8 passing yards per game. Mahomes is already throwing for 280.2 yards per game this year before facing the Bengals. Mix those two together, and the Bengals are gonna have a bad time.

This isn’t anything new for Cincinnati fans to hear, though.  The Bengals’ defense has been its Achilles’ heel all season long and why it sits in the playoff logjam in the AFC. Sure, there’s a chance Cincinnati can hold strong against Kansas City and pull off the upset. But, if it turns into a shootout, it feels safe to say the Chiefs will walk away victorious.

But, in the end, this all may come down to the Week 18 matchup between the Browns and the Bengals to end the season. The AFC North could even be on the line, too.

Right now, Cleveland should be the betting favorite going forward, even if nearly half of the team is out with COVID-19. The Browns just have an easier path to the postseason, and they already trounced the Bengals to the tune of 41-16 once this season. Besides, if Cleveland breaks through to the playoffs, then anything feels like it could happen at that point.

Maybe the saying “Super Bowl, Super Browns” won’t be a joke on the shores of Lake Erie anymore.

Photo by Emilee Chinn/AP
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