I often complain about the ineptitude of the San Diego Chargers—specifically about how they’re bigger underachievers than the guy who knocked up Snooki. Then I stopped by a Cantor Race & Sports Book last week, thumbed through its packet of point spreads for the entire NFL season (sans Week 17), noticed the Cleveland Browns aren’t favored in any of their first 15 games and realized my bitching about the Chargers is like Warren Buffett complaining to a homeless guy that he can’t break a $100 bill.
In case you missed it, here’s Cleveland’s sports recap for the last quarter-century: John Elway orchestrates “The Drive” as the Broncos beat the Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship Game (in Cleveland) … Earnest Byner loses “The Fumble” at the Broncos’ 2-yard line with 72 seconds left in the ’87 AFC Championship Game … Michael Jordan hits “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo in the ’89 NBA playoffs (in Cleveland) … the Indians lose the 1995 World Series to the Braves in six games … then lose the ’97 World Series to the Marlins in seven games … the Browns bolt for Baltimore in 1996 and become the Ravens … the Browns get reborn in ’99 and draft “can’t-miss” quarterback Tim Couch with the first overall pick … the Ravens win the Super Bowl following the 2000 season … LeBron James leads his hometown Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals in 2007, only to get swept by San Antonio … James takes his talents to South Beach in 2010.
Read the previous paragraph again, then tell me if you’d rather fall short of expectations or have no expectations at all. And clearly Cantor’s oddsmakers have no expectations for the 2012 Browns. Hell, in four of its first five games, Cleveland is an underdog of 7 points (vs. Philadelphia), 7½ points (at Cincinnati), 10 points (at Baltimore) and 9½ points (at New York Giants). In fact, the Browns are catching 5½ points or more in 10 of their first 15 games. Their best opportunity to notch a victory before mid-October (according to Cantor)? In Week 3, when they’re a 1-point home underdog against the Bills … the Bills! They’re also an underdog against two rookie quarterbacks (Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck in Week 7 and Washington’s Robert Griffin III in Week 15).
Look, I know I haven’t gotten much right over the last 3½ months (my bankroll is down to $3,766), but this you can take to the bank: The Cleveland Browns are winning a football game this fall. And they’re winning one before Halloween. Mark it down: Oct. 28, at home, Browns win 21-17 vs. the (drum roll …) Chargers, of course! And you’re damn right I’m putting my money where my mouth is: Give me $330 on the Browns +3½ vs. San Diego, and as soon as Cantor puts up money-line odds, I’m in for another $100 on Cleveland to win outright. (God willing, it will be Norv Turner’s swan song …)
Some additional tidbits to ponder after perusing the 480 NFL regular-season games on Cantor’s betting board:
• The Browns may be the only team not favored to win a game, but they’re not the biggest underdog. That distinction is shared by two franchises: The Jaguars (at Green Bay in Week 8) and the Colts (at New England in Week 11) are 14-point pups. In fact, Jacksonville is barely ahead of Cleveland in the expectations department, as it is favored just once: On Nov. 8, the Jaguars are a 3-point chalk against the Colts in a Thursday night barnburner. (Note to the wife: The remote’s all yours on Nov. 8!)
• Big fan of the Packers and Patriots? So is Cantor, which has Green Bay and New England favored in each of their first 15 games. Not only that, but they’re favored by an average of more than seven points per game. Not only that, Part II: There are 21 games where a team is favored by 9½ points or more, and the Packers or Patriots are involved in 10 of them.
• There are 65 road favorites, but not a single double-digit road chalk. The only team favored by double digits away from home? New England, which is laying 11 points vs. the Rams in a neutral-site contest in London on Oct. 28. To all those who subscribe to the “flat-spot/sandwich” theory, take note: Prior to heading to London, the Patriots face the hated Jets at home. Then after playing St. Louis, they’ll have their bye before meeting another division rival (Buffalo). Hmm …
• In case you’ve been asleep for the last decade or so, the only thing Roger Goodell loves more than laying down the law is parity. Looks like he’ll get his wish in 2012, as nearly a quarter of the games on Cantor’s board (105 of 480) have a point spread of 3 points or fewer. Happy handicapping!