Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (7-6 SU, 7-5-1 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date and Time: Sunday December 14th, 2014. 1:00PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium Cleveland, O.H.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +1/CLE -1
Over/Under Total: 44
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Over past several weeks, the Cleveland Browns have dropped 3 of their last 4 games going from apparent playoff contenders to completely outside the playoff picture. The problems have mainly fallen on the shoulders of quarterback Brian Hoyer who has tossed 8 interceptions with just 1 touchdown during that 4 game stretch. With the season riding on the line, Coach Mike Pettine has called for a change behind center. As a result, the moment many football fans have been waiting for will happen this Sunday when Johnny Football makes his first NFL start when the Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals inside FirstEnergy Stadium.
Manziels only playing time thus far this season came two weeks ago when he relieved Hoyer late in an eventual 26-10 loss at Buffalo. Manziel hit 5 of his 8 passes and led the offense down the field in his first drive which was about the only life the Cleveland passing offense has seen in weeks. Hoyer has performed pitifully as of late throwing 7 interceptions without a single touchdown pass in the last 3 games. Even with the return of superstar wide out Josh Gordon in week 12, the Browns have not had any type of success in the passing game. Johnny Football has provoked a ton of hype, arguably undeserved, since he was drafted by Cleveland back in May and he will have the opportunity to prove that he can be the future of the franchise over the next few weeks.
At 7-6 SU, the Browns are currently ranked 4th in the AFC North which is separated by just a game and a half from top to bottom. Therefore Cleveland is still very much alive in the playoff picture if they can find a way to turn things around but it has to happen now. The visiting Bengals on the other hand promise to make things tough. Cincinnati is playing pretty well winning 5 of their last 7 games. The only losses during that stretch was a 24-3 loss in the first meeting against Cleveland and in last weeks 42-21 loss to the Steelers. In the 24-3 loss to Cleveland earlier this year, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had one of his worse performances of the season going just 10 of 33 passing for 86 yards with 3 interceptions throughout the game.
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Dalton has been rather inconsistent throughout the season but most would agree that the performance against Cleveland was his worst of the season. In actuality, Clevelands defense is pretty solid against the pass ranking 9th in the NFL allowing just 231 yards per game. This week I would expect the Bengals to come out with the intentions to run the football with tailbacks Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. However, rest assured there will be plenty of targets for A.J Green. Green had his best outing of the season last week against Pittsburgh catching 11 balls for 224 yards and a touchdown. However Green was not able to carry the Bengals last week in the 42-21 loss to the Steelers and he will likely not be able to carry the offense this week either. For the Bengals to bounce back, they must get some help on the ground offensively and must find ways to keep pressure on Manziel on the defensive side of the football.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: A lot of focus surrounds the offensive players entering this Sundays important matchup. Johnny Football is making his first start and trying to revive Clevelands offense. Meanwhile, A.J Green is coming off a monumental game. However do not be fooled, this game will be about defense. Before last weeks loss to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati had not allowed more than 13 points in 3 straight games. Additionally, the Browns defense proved they can make it difficult for Dalton and Green in the last outing. I believe we have a recipe for a defensive grudge match this Sunday. Both teams are also trending under the mark with Cincinnati finding the under in 4 of their last 5 games and the Browns finding the under in 8 of their last 9 games. Take the under 44!