Cincinnati Bengals (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Week 4
Date/Time: Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN -3.5/CLE +3.5
Over/Under Total: 40
The Cincinnati Bengals go to FirstEnergy Stadium On Sunday for an AFC North matchup with the Cleveland Browns. The good thing is one of these 0-3 teams will get a win after going winless on the young season. Last week, the Bengals at least showed some life after a putrid first two weeks to the season, but still came up short in overtime with Aaron Rodgers late-game dramatics spoiling what would have been a great road win against the Packers. The Browns were thought to have a good chance against Indy on Sunday, but they were unable to overcome a big deficit, losing, 31-28.
Though they are 0-3 and have covered only once this season thus far, the Browns do in fact look improved. As bettors, however, its important to keep in mind that theyve won just one game in their last 22 tries. Therefore, taking them as a road favorite against Indy was a move that we ended up regretting. But after losing by just a FG in two of three games, they are at least being competitive, while also working through a lot of different issues. They have a lot of youth on both sides of the ball and arent going to be good every week. There are some good signs, mixed in with a lot of the miscues that accompany an abundance of youth.
With 6 picks in his last two games, Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer is experiencing a lot of growing pains. He has been under 50% completions in his last two games. At the same time, there is a certain unidentifiable quality to the big strapping rookie. He can scoot well with the ball and has already made a small impact with that aspect of his game. And in general, he is able to move the offense, if only he were able to cut down on the mistakes. Weve seen Kizer get this offense moving with several nice scoring spurts this season, but it just hasnt been applied consistently enough. The run-game looks for more production with hard-running Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, who ran for a TD and led the team in receiving with 81 yards. Kizer seems to be gelling with him as a more-reliable weapon. WR Kenny Britt hauled in a TD on Sunday, with David Njoku showing upside as a rookie tight end, with the first-rounder catching touchdowns in his last two games. Can they start to get a more-complete 4 quarters this week, with less overall mistakes?
The Browns defense hasnt been awful, but like the offense, lapses have cost them. They were tough against a good Steelers offense in week one, before another reasonable performance against Baltimore the following week. And against Indy, it was a tale of two halves, as they held Indy to just a FG in the second half after being exploited in the first two quarters. Help could be on the way as the debut of number-one pick DE Myles Garrett appears to be imminent. And getting run ragged based on mistakes on the offensive side of the ball has made them look a little worse than they are. The addition of Jason McCourty and rookie Jabrill Peppers to the secondary looks to have helped. LB Christian Kirksey has been big so far and we see a lot of things forming on this side of the ball, namely an identity that theyve lacked in recent seasons.
Losing to the Packers at Lambeau in OT and covering the spread was actually a major upgrade from the utterly-dysfunctional Cincy unit we saw in weeks one and two. Things had gotten so bad, they canned their offensive coordinator after scoring no touchdowns in their first two games. Well, things got better on Sunday, especially with a nice first half that saw the Bengals take a 21-7 lead, although one of those touchdowns was a defensive score. But the second half saw more of the same as they posted a mere FG as the Packers slowly worked their way back into the game and won in overtime. It was an improvement, but its really a bad sign when a perennial playoff contender falls to the point of being commended for merely showing some spunk in games they still end up losing.
The Cincinnati offense did see a spike in production with two touchdowns in just over a quarter in week three. Andy Dalton was 21-for-27 with two TD throws and 212 yards. He connected well with AJ Green, who had 111 yards and a score, while Giovani Bernard had another TD grab. Joe Mixon looked a little better with some production on the ground and through the air. But a lone field goal in the second half was upsetting and after opening the season with two fruitless home games, they now face their second straight road game and losing to the Browns would be another setback for a team that seems to have lost its way.
The Cincinnati defense has allowed 33 points total in the first two games. And on Sunday, they were playing a big role in the Bengals effort. William Jackson, III. took a Aaron Rodgers pass and picked it off and returned it 75 yards. The pass-rush looked vicious, with DT Geno Atkins getting a lot of attention. It opened things up for guys like rookie LB Carl Lawson, who had 2.5 sacks. Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap also got to Rodgers. At the end of the day, though, the offense going dead in the second-half was of no help to a unit that was playing well until the end. There wasnt much clutch play at the end, with big plays helping the Packers push it into overtime, turning a good road effort into what ended up being another painful loss. They also lost both safeties, with George Iloka and Shawn Williams listed as questionable for this contest.
This should be a tough divisional game in Cleveland this week. The Browns should be in this game, unless a slew of mistakes are again committed. It seems like people want to project success on Cleveland, as they do look better and are more of a force this season at the betting windows than they were last season. Still, with it being so hard to get a win and with just four covers going back to 2015, only so much faith can really be had. Were taking the leap again with the Browns, as there is nothing about the Bengals lately that makes one want to lay 3.5 points on them on the road.
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