This is a special feature article from Covers.com.
Two NFL teams enter the 2017 season facing uphill climbs to win their respective divisions. However, if they are successful, those who had bet on them prior to the season starting will receive quite a return as the odds are 33-1 for these clubs, the New York Jets (AFC East) and Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
New York Jets
Clearly, hopes are not very high for those supporting this franchise and with good reason. And much of that lack of confidence is out of their control thanks to being in the same division as the New England Patriots, who have advanced to at least the AFC championship game in each of the past six seasons. However, the Jets would also struggle to win the division title in any other division.
But there are positives.
One is that the Jets have bounced back-and-forth between .500-or-better records and pretty lousy marks the last six seasons. Since 2011, the Jets have gone 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, 4-12, 10-6 and 5-11. If that trend continues, the team should expect a winning campaign and being able to compete for a division title. It may not be clear where that success will come from, but it wasn’t all that clear how the 2013 or 2015 Jets were going to get back to the .500 mark either.
Otherwise, the defensive line is expected to be solid, which would help keep scores close. Elsewhere on that side of the ball, the linebackers and secondary will need to be comprised of players having career or near-career seasons in order to give the team a realistic chance of winning every week. Offensively, there are glimmers of hope on the line, but the rest of the offense is one huge question mark. Even the quarterback position is wide open leading into camp.
Probably the biggest thing that this team needs to overcome is the perennial-loser culture that exists here as Cleveland last had a winning record in 2007 when that team went 10-6. However, their last playoff appearance came in 2002 when the 9-7 Browns reached the wild card round before losing by 30 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And hopes are obviously not high this year either given their odds.
But, as with the Jets, positives do exist. After going 1-15 last year, there is nowhere to go but up, meaning that if the team can get off to a decent start, it may be able to build momentum as early wins can spark a snowball effect.
Probably the most important factor will be stability at the quarterback position. In 2016, six different players took the ball from the center. Cody Kessler will probably begin the season as Cleveland’s starter. A year ago, he completed 128-of-195 passes for 1,380 yards and six touchdowns. He also entered the penultimate game of the season and rallied the Browns past the Chargers, 20-17, the team’s lone win.
Another question will be how much protection the offensive line will give the quarterback and many holes they will provide the running game. The impact of Gregg Williams, the team’s new defensive coordinator, will play a significant role too as far as Cleveland’s hopes of competing for titles.
When considering long shots, it’s important to remember that they do not need to pay off that often for it to still be a good bet. If a 33-1 selection comes through once every 20 times, that’s great. Which of these two teams has the best chance to overcome those long odds? It has to be Cleveland. The Browns appear to have more in their cabinet than the Jets do, and they don’t have the Patriots to overcome.