NFL Week 14 Picks: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati Bengals (1-11 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Cleveland Browns (5-7 SU, 4-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 1PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Point Spread: CIN +9/CLE -9 (SportsBetting.ag)
Over/Under Total: 41.5
The Cincinnati Bengals come to FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for a week 14 AFC North matchup with the Cleveland Browns. It’s the first matchup of these divisional teams this season, as they will play again in a few weeks. Cincy finally was able to get in the win column on Sunday after 11 straight losses with a 22-6 win over the Jets. They look to carry that momentum into Cleveland to take on a Browns team that saw their little spurt come to an end in a 20-13 loss to the Steelers. At 5-7, they now try to pick up the pieces at home.
Cincinnati Getting it Together?
One win over the Jets after an 0-11 start falls well short of “getting it together,” but seeing a high-end version of the Bengals last week could yield some better betting value heading down the stretch. And a 5-7 ATS record isn’t so horrible for a 1-11 squad. They’ve covered two of three spreads, with the one miss being by a half-point. It’s just important to not look at simply which team has more firepower but to look at who is getting more out of what they have. Maybe there will be some decent value in these last several games on a Bengals team that has almost imperceptibly elevated their form.
Andy Dalton, for all his faults, is still the best quarterback on the roster and getting him back in there was overdue and immediately paid off. Joe Mixon ran in a TD, while Dalton connected with Tyler Boyd for another score. The secondary, a unit that has been victimized left and right this season, held the Jets’ aerial attack to minimal production, also stifling their run game and Le’Veon Bell. The Bengals’ offense doesn’t have a lot of firepower, but Dalton seemed to bring the best out of everyone around him.
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Better Spot For the Browns
Truth be told, the Browns had been looking better until last week, beating the Bills, Steelers, and Dolphins in consecutive weeks. This time against Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ defense played very well at home, and the Cleveland offense couldn’t get untracked. And it does leave a bad taste in one’s mouth when a team with this much offense manages 13 points in a game where they could get back to .500 if they won. It could get better this week.
After watching Cleveland do well against Pittsburgh and Buffalo, they’ve been playing well on offense against some pretty good units. At home against a Cincinnati, the defense could be a spot where they shine. Look for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to feast on a league’s worst Bengals’ run-defense. The secondary isn’t a ton better and with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry showing more fire lately, look for the run to set up a healthy dose of passing from Baker Mayfield, who would like to put a bad game on Sunday behind him.
The Morale Component
To say the Bengals have high morale as they sit at 1-11 could be a stretch, but it’s all relative. Getting the first win of the season can have an energizing effect, and a 16-point win over a Jets team that had been looking better has put a little wind in their sails. Contrast that to a Cleveland team that just took their 7th loss of the season, making a path to the postseason seem like less than a 1% shot. The second-place AFC East team will get one wild card, with Indy, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Oakland going for that second slot, all with better records than the Browns. As the utter disappointment of their situation crystallizes, will we see a dispirited group? With it now as clear as ever that 2019 was a flop and that their coach is likely headed out, is Cleveland a dying animal riding out the storm?
The Browns were having a hard enough time making it all work with what they have. Now, enough pieces are missing to make them a depreciated version of their former selves. On offense, little chunks of their line keep falling off, and they’re without their best tight end. On the other side of the ball, they’re suffering personnel issues in the secondary and with Myles Garrett suspended, they are without their top player on “D.”
Obstacles for a Cincy Cover
We could be taking last week’s Browns’ loss too much to heart. Sure, they had beaten the Steelers and needed the win, so it wasn’t a good look. Combine that with the overall disappointment of their season, and it could lead to a lot of people holding a really negative impression of the Browns heading into this week. An opinion that might not accurately capture where they truly are and the strides they had made prior to falling to Pittsburgh. And how bad is it really to lose on the road to a team that has lost only one game since October 6?
There are still numerous matchup issues the Bengals will need to buck if they want to compete with a team that beat them twice last season. The Browns still have a solid secondary that could make life hard on a Bengals’ pass-attack that often languishes. Cleveland can be run against, but Cincy has one of the weakest run-games in the conference. And on defense, there is little to like about how the Bengals match up in this one.
Take the Road Dog
Some things on paper don’t line up well for the Bengals. Then again, when a leading preseason conference contender is sitting at 5-7, it’s clear that not everything on paper adds up when it comes to Cleveland. I think a little boost in morale, having Dalton in there, and a Browns’ team that has to be feeling bad will resonate on the field on Sunday, as the Bengals eke out the cover in Cleveland.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Cincinnati Bengals plus 9 points.
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