Free Expert NFL Picks: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 11/5/2014
The Thursday night NFL games have been ratings hits this season, as usual, so I'll be interested to see how much fans really love pro football with this week's battle for Ohio between Cleveland and Cincinnati. If this gets great ratings, then clearly it just never matters who plays in these weekday games.
That's not to say this isn't an important game, and you can bet Steelers and Ravens fans will be tuning in. How fun is the AFC North this season? It's the only division that has all four teams above .500. Sure, the fact that Cincinnati (5-2-1), Baltimore (5-4) and Pittsburgh (6-3) have winning records isn't a shock. That Cleveland is 5-3? Stunner. It's the first time since 2007 the Browns have been over .500 through eight games and is as many wins as the Browns have had in any of the past six seasons.
Should the Browns pull the upset here, and then Sunday the Steelers lose at the Jets (very possible) and the Ravens fall at home to Tennessee (not likely) then we will have a four-way tie of six-win teams in the division. Obviously, the loss totals would be different. That tie the Bengals had a few weeks ago vs. Carolina where Mike Nugent missed an easy overtime field goal to win could prove to hugely benefit Cincinnati or really hurt the team. The Bengals are in great shape in one regard because they are 2-0 in the division, both wins coming against Baltimore. Every other North team has at least two division losses. That's the second tiebreaker for the division title after head-to-head.
At Sportsbook.ag , Cincinnati is the +105 AFC North favorite, followed by the Steelers (+200), Ravens (+500) and Browns (+1000).
Browns at Bengals Betting Story Lines
A win here would be huge for Cleveland's playoff hopes not just for the team's record but also because Josh Gordon will come off suspension for Week 12 in Atlanta. Gordon of course led the NFL in receiving last year. Think that might help this offense? Because the Browns are in contention, it's looking more and more like Johnny Manziel won't get a start this season unless Brian Hoyer goes down injured or Cleveland fades and is eliminated with a couple of games to go. Hoyer had his first 300-yard game of the season Sunday in a 22-17 win over Tampa Bay. He also had two TD passes for only the second time this year and two picks for the first time.
While Gordon will help in a big way, the running game has been stuck in the mud for three weeks. It happened when Pro Bowl center Alex Mack went down with a season-ending injury after the team's fifth game. The rushing average has dropped nearly 100 yards to just 53 a game since Mack went out.
That running game might be needed on Thursday as two of Hoyer's top targets could be out. Tight end Jordan Cameron missed the Bucs game with a concussion, and you can all but rule him out again. Receiver Andrew Hawkins is a game-time decision with knee/thigh injuries. Hawkins has been a great under-the-radar free-agent addition, leading the team in targets (70), receptions (39) and yards (504). I think he does play.
After playing pretty lousy for three straight weeks, the Bengals have turned it around with back-to-back wins over Baltimore and Jacksonville, both at home. I'm still not sure the defense has been fixed as the offensively-challenged Jaguars scored 23 points in Sunday's 10-point defeat. Jacksonville had 365 total yards and 132 rushing. Cincinnati has been terrible stopping the run, ranking 31st in the NFL in allowing 139.6 ypg, so that may bode well for the struggling Browns rush attack.
The two big story lines from Sunday's Bengals win were the return of star receiver A.J. Green from injury and the bust-out game of rookie running back Jeremy Hill. Green, who had missed three games with a toe injury, caught three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals really have a strong duo with Green and Mohamed Sanu, who blew up while Green was out and had four catches for 95 yards and a score vs. the Jags. But Hill was the star of that one, setting career highs with 24 carries, 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was the most rushing yards for a Cincinnati back since Oct. 25, 2009. Frankly, it was the best game by a Bengals rookie back since Corey Dillon had 246 yards and four touchdowns on Dec. 4, 1997.
Hill will start again because usual starter Gio Bernard is doubtful to play with a hip injury. You may want to start Hill on your fantasy team because Cleveland ranks 30th against the rush. Also likely out for Cincinnati are starting right tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Leon Hall, both hurt vs. Jacksonville.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Week 10 NFL Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Cincinnati opened as a 7-point favorite (+120) with alternate lines of 6.5 (-102) and 6 (-110). The Bengals are -260 on the moneyline with Browns at +220. The total is 44.5. Cleveland is 4-2-2 against the spread (1-1-1 on road) and 4-4 "over/under" (2-1 on road). Cincinnati is 4-3-1 ATS (3-1-1 at home) and 4-4 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Browns have covered four straight Thursday games. However, Cleveland is 2-7 ATS in its past nine on the road against teams with a winning home record. Cincinnati has covered six straight at home against teams with a winning road record. The Bengals have covered seven of their past 10 overall vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in Cleveland's past five against teams with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in Cincinnati's past five against the AFC North. The road team has failed to cover the past four meetings in this series. The over is 5-1 in the past six.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
As one would expect, it's going to be a bit chilly in Cincinnati this time of year. Weather.com has a temperature of 36 at night with winds up to 15 mph. Doesn't seem like precipitation is much of a worry.
Cleveland's defense has looked pretty awful on the road, allowing 30 points in Pittsburgh, 29 in Tennessee (only road win) and 24 in Jacksonville. In a way, this is a must-win for Cincinnati because it ends a three-game homestand and a three-game trip is up next, starting next Sunday where teams almost never win: New Orleans. Thus, I believe the Bengals play with urgency. Give the 6.5-point alternate line (or 6), and go over.
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