OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Cleveland Browns have become the betting favorites to win their first AFC North title, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the current division champions.
Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson complimented the Browns on their offseason moves, including the trade for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but pointed out that the AFC North will be determined on the field, not by a video game.
“[W]e’re still defending the [AFC North] title. So until then, it’s just he say, she say, it’s Madden,” Jefferson said on the NFL Network on Tuesday. “Until then, you got to come strip the title from us. That’s just what it is.”
With division games against Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield (now with Odell Beckham Jr.), the Ravens are spending big on stopping the pass.
The Ravens won their first division title since 2012, but Baltimore lost four key members from last season’s top-ranked defense in free agency. Linebackers C.J. Mosley (New York Jets), Terrell Suggs (Arizona Cardinals) and Za’Darius Smith (Green Bay Packers) signed elsewhere in free agency, and safety Eric Weddle joined the Los Angeles Rams after being cut by the Ravens.
Baltimore has added safety Earl Thomas, running back Mark Ingram II and special teams standout Justin Bethel.
“You can sleep if you want, but we’re going to be out there playing ball, and let the cards come out how they do,” Jefferson said. “We work a little harder, lift a little harder, run a little harder out there. So I’m excited.”
The DraftKings SuperBook in New Jersey opened the Browns as +140 favorites to win the division, trailed closely by the Pittsburgh Steelers at +160 and Ravens at +250.
The Browns are the only team in the division not to win the AFC North. Since the realignment in 2002, Cleveland has the worst division record (24-77-1, .240) in the NFL.
But the Browns have been one of the most active teams this offseason. In addition to trading for Beckham, Cleveland also added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Olivier Vernon this offseason.
“I think it’s great. I love what they did, I love that they brought a lot more talent to the division,” Jefferson said. “Obviously, Odell coming to the Browns is humongous. What he brings to the game is rare. Plus, with all the complements around him that he has, with Baker [Mayfield]. That brings a lot of challenges for opposing defenses, and then a defense has to play them twice a year, that brings that challenge as well.”
Jefferson isn’t the only Ravens player who has spoken out about the suddenly trendy Browns, as wide receiver Willie Snead IV took to Twitter last week to share his thoughts.
Doesn’t this mean I have to hear about the Browns all offseason… 🤦🏽♂️😂😂
— Willie Snead IV (@Willie_Snead4G) March 13, 2019
The Ravens and Browns split last year’s season series with each team winning at home.