Cleveland Browns (2-6 SU, 4-4 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0 SU, 6-0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 9
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, November 5, 2015 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
By Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CLE +10/CIN -10
Over/Under Total: 46
The Cleveland Browns come to Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday Night Football to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams come into this game on the short week, with Cincinnati rallying to beat Pittsburgh in a key road win that sent their record to 7-0, the first time Cincy has opened the season with 7 straight wins. Cleveland was less fortunate on Sunday, dropping a 34-20 loss to the Cardinals. At 2-6, they need something good to happen quickly, if its not already too late.
The Browns have been a bit scrappier this season and stand out as a more dangerous opponent than theyve been in recent years. It just hasnt materialized into actual wins, with the Browns having dropped 5 of their last 6 and 3 straight. QB Josh McCown has added an element of aerial prowess to this offense. In recent weeks, hes been putting up massive numbers. But they are still painfully one-dimensional, as the run-game remains stuck in the mud.
McCown has done pretty well, as the 36-year old has fought hard for the team, taking a beating in the process. But as hard as hes played, its hard to not notice how seemingly incapable he is of delivering a win, with an awful 2-16 record in his last 18 NFL starts. And thats really what its all aboutwinning. McCown has given this offense another dimension and a certain explosive potential. But getting over the hump has proven to be difficult.
Cleveland is dangerous through the air, with Gary Barnidge having a great season, establishing himself as a game-changing tight end who presents matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. WR Travis Benjamin leads the team in receiving and has become a more consistent weapon this season. And while running back Duke Johnson, Jr. has labored as a runner, he has become a constant short-pass threat and has 33 catches at the halfway point. McCown was battered in the Cardinals loss on Sunday and is listed as questionable with sore ribs. Well see if that leads to an appearance for Johnny Manziel, who won his only start of the season. Its not that safe being a Browns quarterback, behind a vastly-underachieving line that has given up 27 sacks.
Defensively, things arent a ton better for the Browns. They are the last-ranked defense against the run in the league, while not being much better against the pass. Other than a week two win over the Titans, this defense has given up between 24 and 34 points in each game. Even as the Browns have managed to keep some games close, the defense struggles in coming up with a big play when it would really make a world of difference. As we try to break this game down, we need to take into account the waning fighting spirit shown by Cleveland in their last two weeks. After keeping most games close, their last two losses havent been all that competitive.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is flying high with a 7-0 start. On Sunday, they faced a tough proposition of going into Pittsburgh as Ben Roethlisberger returned to action. And through the first 57 minutes on the game, the Bengals could only manage a pair of field goals. With a few minutes left, Dalton connected with AJ Green for a touchdown, as the Bengals added a field goal shortly later to leave Heinz Field with a well-earned win.
After several seasons of showing promise, but failing in a postseason setting, it seems that the players and staff of the Bengals re-doubled their efforts for this season. So far, theyve shown a high level of urgency in each game. They seem to be a team that isnt going to phone in any games this season. And thats the urge when dealing with unbeaten teamstrying to time the letdown. Sometimes, thats a costly game to play.
He didnt have his best game on Sunday, but Andy Dalton is really clicking this season with an offense that has established a clear identity. AJ Green seems a bit reborn, with a healthy Tyler Eifert adding a lot of upside as a number-two big-bodied target for Dalton. Another healthy player returning has helped the aerial attack, with Marvin Jones adding a lot of production. The run-game has been impactful, with Giovani Bernard stepping his game up this season, as Jeremy Hill chips in with good runs. This offense is the 3rd highest-scoring unit in the NFL.
The Cincy defense was robust once again on Sunday. After the Steelers scored a mid-first quarter touchdown, they were held to a field goal for the rest of the afternoon. And when the Bengals offense labors, this D can step up and keep them in the game. And they make plays, with Reggie Nelson picking off two Roethlisberger passes, while the front applied a serious pass rush, keeping the ample Steelers run game in check other than a long run by DeAngelo Williams. On average, they give up 19 points per game, which is usually going to be enough for the Bengals offense.
After a tough game on Sunday where they had to dig deep to beat a good team on the road, this could potentially be a good spot to go against Cincinnati. After all, they havent lost ATS all season, so theyre due. Thats no reason to pick against a team, but in a division game with a double-digit spread, this might be a good week to take the Browns.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Cleveland Browns plus ten points.
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