NFL News: Browns’ Odds in Flux as Uncertainty Swirls Around Deshaun Watson

While Deshaun Watson settles a majority of the civil suits against him, his immediate NFL future is still murky, with the league yet to make a decision. That uncertainty gives the Ravens an opportunity, which we highlight in our NFL news notebook.

Last Updated: Jun 22, 2022 3:46 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Deshaun Watson Cleveland Browns NFL
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NFL betting never sleeps, even in the lazy summer heat. 

With more developments in the Deshaun Watson scandal shaking up life in the AFC North and Tom Brady losing his best bud to retirement, we look at the NFL odds connected to those breaking stories and where the best value might be hiding in our latest NFL betting notebook. 

NFL Notebook: June 22

Click on each item to read the full update.

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Kings of the North

If Deshaun Watson wants to clear his name after a disturbing wave of sexual misconduct accusations, he’s going about it the wrong way. 

The Cleveland Browns’ $230 million quarterback recently settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him, which doesn’t exactly paint the picture of innocence. It also doesn’t help Watson’s case when it comes to disciplinary actions from the NFL, and a source familiar with the investigation told the media that a lengthy suspension could still be coming down the tracks.

That uncertainty around the Browns’ QB has forced many sportsbooks to pull Cleveland’s Week 1 odds (at Carolina) off the board. For the bookies that kept it up, that spread had dipped as much as two points (Browns -4.5 to -2.5) before settling in at a market consensus of Cleveland -3.

There are a few futures markets in which Cleveland is available as an option, but more long-term, low-risk (for the book) outcomes such as Super Bowl (+2,000), AFC Championship (+1,100), and divisional winner (+210 at DraftKings). That’s about it for Browns bets.

If you’re looking to fade Cleveland and get out ahead of that probable suspension for Watson, you’re left with the worst of the number in Week 1… or you can jump on the divisional odds and get a better price on the Browns’ rivals knowing those padded futures will still move when the NFL makes its call.

Digging into those odds to win the AFC North, we see varying prices at different books: 

DraftKings lists Baltimore as a +185 favorite to win the division despite having a shorter win total (9.5 Over -150) than Cincinnati, which is at +190 to take the AFC North crown with a win total of 10 (Under -125).

FanDuel has the same pecking order for the division, but Baltimore is priced at +160, Cincinnati +200, and Cleveland +250. The season win totals do jibe with that rollout, with the Ravens 9.5 (Over -130) and the Bengals 9.5 wins (Over -110).

PointsBet books follow suit with Baltimore +165, Cincinnati +190, and Cleveland +275. They’re a bit juicy on the Ravens (-145) and Bengals (-130) to go Over 9.5 wins, which is also a trickle-down effect from the Browns’ sticky situation. 

And then you have bet365, which has the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns all pegged at +200 to win the AFC North (Pittsburgh a +900 long shot). They have Baltimore Over 9.5 wins listed at -140 while Cincinnati Over 9.5 is -115.

Sizing up the Ravens and Bengals, most win totals are calling for 9.5 to 10 wins for these foes. But when we calculate the lookahead spreads available for every game (while making an educated projection on those contests involving Cleveland — with Watson in the lineup) we have Baltimore a favorite in 12 games with one pick’em (12.5 wins) and Cincinnati as a favorite in 10 games with two pick’ems (11 wins).

Toss in 2022’s standard strength of schedule (Ravens 23rd/Bengals 3rd) and my QB SOS from last week’s NFL betting notebook (Ravens 21st/Bengals 8th), and Baltimore gets my nod as the best bet to win the AFC North — which you can grab at +200 before the other shoe drops on Watson and the Browns.

Gronk worth half a point

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski will not follow Tom Brady back into the fray in 2022, announcing his second retirement from the NFL after following Brady to Tampa Bay in 2020 for two seasons with the Bucs.

That news dropped Tampa Bay’s Week 1 spread at Dallas from -2.5 (-110) to -2 (-115) at PointsBet on Tuesday.

Gronkowski was third on the team in targets (89) with 55 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns in 12 regular-season games in 2021. He added 116 yards on nine grabs and one touchdown in two playoff games.

The five-time Pro Bowl tight end and four-time Super Bowl champ leaves TB12 without one of his favorite all-time targets, going back to their days in New England. 

Funny enough, with Gronk retired for the 2019 season (Brady’s last with the Patriots), Tom posted a completion percentage of 60.8, 6.6 yards per attempt, 4,057 yards passing, 24 TDs, and a QB rating of 88.0 — his second-worst overall season since 2010 when Gronkowski joined the team. His lowest output in that span came in 2013, in which Gronk played just seven games due to injuries.

DraftKings currently has player props on Brady’s 2022 stats, setting Over/Under totals on his regular-season touchdowns (35.5 Over -110) and passing yards (4,699.5 Over -110). He amassed 5,316 yards and 43 TDs last season.

With Gronkowski retiring to a post-football life alongside his SI Swimsuit model girlfriend, Cameron Brate bumps up to the No. 1 TE spot in the depth chart. He’s snagged 58 balls on 91 targets for a total of 527 yards in two seasons alongside Brady in Tampa Bay.

Mending D-Fences

The coaching carousel spins at breakneck speeds in the NFL, and that goes for coordinators as well. 

One of the dozen teams that underwent a swap in the defensive coordinator’s chair — to the surprise of many — was the Baltimore Ravens. They let go of Don Martindale despite “Wink” lifting that Baltimore defense among the NFL’s elite in three of his four years with the franchise and fighting through an injury-plagued 2021.

In his place is former Michigan staffer and Martindale disciple Mike Macdonald, who brings familiarity but also new philosophies. 

According to The Athletic, the constant man-to-man blitz-heavy attack the Ravens hung their hat on is gone, or at least tamed a bit with Macdonald wanting to mix up looks and keep QBs guessing at the coverage — a good thing when you face both Joe Burrow and possibly Deshaun Watson twice a season.

Baltimore’s opening 2022 slate sets up well to fine-tune that new-look stop unit, taking on the likes of the New York Jets (Ravens -4.5), Miami Dolphins (-4), and New England Patriots (pick’em) in the opening three games.

Zach Wilson, Tau Tagovailoa, and Mac Jones are OK quarterbacks but ranked out 1.5, 2.5, and 2.5 in my QB ratings last week. At least they give Macdonald a bit of grace before battling the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen (5.0) in Week 4 (Ravens +1 at Buffalo) and Burrow and the Bengals in Week 5 (Ravens -1 at home).

Here are the NFL teams with new defensive coordinators in 2022 and their 2021 Defensive DVOA at Football Outsiders:

Team Defensive Coordinator 2021 Defensive DVOA
Baltimore Ravens Mike Macdonald 9.3% (28th)
Chicago Bears Alan Williams -0.9% (13th)
Denver Broncos Ejiro Evero 3.0% (20th)
Houston Texans Lovie Smith (HC) 3.6% (23rd)
Indianapolis Colts Gus Bradley -4.9% (8th)
Jacksonville Jaguars Mike Caldwell 11.7% (31st)
Las Vegas Raiders Patrick Graham 0.6% (17th)
New Orleans Saints Kris Richard/Ryan Nielsen -15.0% (3rd)
New York Giants Wink Martindale 2.8% (18th)
Pittsburgh Steelers Teryl Austin -0.6% (14th)
Seattle Seahawks Clint Hurtt 3.5% (21st)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kacy Rodgers/Larry Foote -3.3% (9th)

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