Most teams have enjoyed their visits to Cleveland over the past two seasons, at least during the regular season, when the Browns have gone a combined 1-15 at home over the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons. That wasn't the case during the 2017 preseason, however. The Browns won both of their exhibition home games in 2017 but in reality, that was merely a facade. In the three preseasons prior, the Browns were 1-5 at home.
That included an 11-10 home-field loss to the Bills in 2015, and the Bills have most certainly savored their preseason visits to Cleveland, going 3-1 there all-time, starting with a 34-20 win at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1975. The regular season hasn't proven as accommodating. Buffalo lost its last game in Cleveland by a 37-24 count in 2013 and is 1-2 in the last three trips to Cleveland. Overall, the Bills are 5-7 at Cleveland, beginning with a 27-10 loss at the Browns in 1972.
Joining Up - Both the Bills and Browns know what it means to merge with the NFL. The Browns were originally part of the All-American Football Conference from 1946-49 but when the AAFC folded, the Browns, Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers were welcomed into the NFL fold. In 1970, when the AFL-NFL merger took place, the Bills were among 10 AFL clubs absorbed into the 16-team NFL. But to balance out each conference with 13 teams, the Browns, Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers all moved to the AFC.
Browns Time - The Bills finally made the playoffs last season as an AFC wildcard team, their first visit to the postseason since 1999, ending what was the longest active drought without playoff action among the 32 NFL teams. But the success story put the Browns on the clock. Cleveland now owns the longest active playoff drought. The Browns haven't participated in the postseason since 2002, when they also earned an AFC wildcard spot, but were beaten 36-33 on the road by the Steelers.
Moving On - So what did the Bills do when they made the playoffs? Why they traded their quarterback, of course, moving Tyrod Taylor to of all teams, the Browns. Taylor figures to mind the No. 1 QB position in Cleveland until 2018 first overall draft pick Baker Mayfield is ready to step in. The Bills also spent a first-round pick on a QB, selecting Josh Allen. Mayfield (+400) and Allen (+900) are 2-3 in BetOnline's future book on the NFL offensive rookie of the year.
Hue And Cry - After the Browns went 1-15 in 2016, his first season in charge, head coach Hue Jackson announced that he'd jump in Lake Erie if the Browns went 1-15 again in 2017. Luckily for him, Cleveland was 0-16 last season and he stayed dry. But he won't stay off the hot seat. With a 1-31 slate as an NFL head coach, Jackson is in the sights of every critic who thinks he won't survive another bad start. Betway lists Jackson as the +350 favorite to be the first NFL coach fired during the 2018 season.
The Real McCoy - Buffalo's offense is keyed around the powerful running of LeSean McCoy. Acquired by the Bills from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 and signed to a five-year, $40-million contract, McCoy is a six-time Pro Bowl player and one of 30 backs in NFL history to gain over 10,000 yards on the ground. He's rushed for over 1000 yards each of the last two seasons and is listed by Bovada at +6000 to win the NFL MVP Award, ranked seventh on the list among running backs. But only one RB has been MVP in the past 12 seasons.
Taylor Made - One of many starting quarterbacks to find a new home in the offseason, Taylor won't have to do much to make a name for himself in Cleveland. If he wins a couple of games and helps groom 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Mayfield to eventually fill his role, Taylor will have done his job. BetOnline puts Taylor at +10000 to win the NFL MVP Award, the longest odds of anyone on the board. Bovada has Taylor at +12500, the same odds that you'll get on Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles being the NFL MVP.
Postseasoning - After ending their long playoff drought, what are the chances that the Bills do it again in 2018? Well, considering that 1999 was their second straight playoff appearance, maybe the Bills have it in them to double down. But don't tell BetOnline that. They list the Bills at +4000 to win the AFC Championship. Only their AFC East Division rivals the New York Jets have longer odds to win the conference at +6600.
Yes, even the Browns, 0-16 a year ago, are given a much better chance of going to the Super Bowl than the Bills. BetOnline pegs the Browns at +2800 to win the AFC Championship Game and go to the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Others aren't nearly as sold on Cleveland and think the Browns are the true longshot when it comes to playoff participation. Bovada has Cleveland at odds of -1200 to miss the playoffs again this season. You'll get odds of +650 if you bet the Browns to be playoff participants.
Running Up - One reason why football people and oddsmakers at online sportsbooks believe that the Browns won't be the doormats they've proven to be time and time again over the past two seasons is because the team moved to improve its dismal running game. The Browns drafted Georgia's Nick Chubb in the second round and signed free agent Carlos Hyde from the 49ers to go with returning veteran Duke Johnson Jr. ESPN rated Cleveland's running back group the eighth-best in the NFL.
Last season, Cleveland running backs carried the ball a league-low 293 times and produced a paltry nine touchdowns, six on the ground and three via receptions. But they did catch 109 balls for 923 receiving yards last season, both numbers ranking third in the NFL among running backs.