NFL Betting Predictions: Week 15 Opening Line Report and Picks
Most NFL owners don't care about bad press or whiny fans. They are billionaires and will run their team however they want. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a bit of an exception because he's also the GM and loves to be in front of the microphones.
However, what will get an owner's attention when fans are demanding a major change is when they start not showing up at games. That brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the most conservative and resistant to major change teams in the league under Mike Brown.
From 2011-15 the Bengals were a playoff team every year under Coach Marvin Lewis. Notably, the lost in the wild-card game in all of those and Lewis is an astonishing 0-7 in his playoff career. Things have only gone downhill since Cincinnati's gutting 18-16 home wild-card loss to the Steelers on Jan. 9, 2016, a game the Bengals absolutely should have won if not for some utterly stupid penalties.
Cincinnati missed the playoffs the next year at 6-9-1. Still drew a respectable average attendance of 63,500 or so. Last year, with most of the fan base upset that Lewis was retained, the Bengals were 7-9 and drew just 53,275.
This writer would have bet anything that Lewis wasn't brought back for 2018, but in typical Bengal fashion he was. The team will miss the postseason again and attendance is down to 51,600 or so, the worst in the league for any team that doesn't play in a soccer as its temporary home (i.e. the Chargers). Shoot, the lame-duck Raiders are drawing about 3,000 more fans per game.
We mention all this because Sunday is Cincinnati's last home game of the season, hosting Oakland in which there may not be 30,000 in attendance. I'm sure many of the ones there will be holding variations of "Fire Marvin" signs. Bovada does offer a prop on whether Lewis is back next season: Amazingly, "yes" is a -190 favorite with "no" at +145.
I'll be dropping at least a few hundred on no. If Brown is this opaque, well, then the Bengals deserve to suck for another decade. There's loyalty and then there's stupidity. This franchise is about to get lapped in-state by the rising Cleveland Browns, who have an opening that's highly-coveted. Cincinnati's? Not so much as it also might be time to move on from quarterback Andy Dalton. You do hear rumors that the Bengals are set to boot Lewis, but only to replace him with newly-hired assistant Hue Jackson. You know, he of the 3-36-1 record as Cleveland's head coach. Sometimes, you can't help but just laugh.
Cincinnati is -3.5 vs. Oakland this Sunday in one of the dog - and not underdog - games of the week. We are doing to do a bit of a change up this week and look at the two Saturday games (yep, that time of year) in our Opening Line Report. We'll come back in Friday's Line Movement/Last-Minute News story with some of Sunday's games. Individually this week, I will examine Thursday's game (Chargers-Chiefs), Sunday's top matchup (Patriots-Steelers) and the Monday night game (Saints-Panthers).
Texans at Jets (+6.5,.42): A 4:30 kickoff on the NFL Network. Just eighth meeting between franchises. Houston has won the past two, most recently in 2015. The Texans had their nine-game winning streak snapped in a 24-21 home upset loss to the Colts on Sunday when a victory would have clinched the AFC South for Houston. It's still two games ahead of Indianapolis and Tennessee, however. Probably comes down to the Patriots or Texans as the AFC's No. 2 seed, and New England wins a head-to-head tiebreaker there thanks to 27-20 Week 1 victory over the Texans.
Houston couldn't get anything going on the ground vs. the Colts as QB Deshaun Watson led the team with just 35 yards on the ground. Lamar Miller had 33 on 14 carries. The Jets were 27-23 upset winners in Buffalo - the same team that slaughtered the Jets 41-10 in Week 10. Sam Darnold played for the first time since Week 9 due to a shoulder injury and threw for 170 yards and a score. Isaiah Crowell left with a foot injury and Elijah McGuire stepped up with 60 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Not clear yet if Crowell will play Saturday. That was actually a terrible win for the Jets because they would have had the inside track to the No. 1 overall pick with a loss because both the 49ers and Raiders were winners Sunday. The pick: Texans & "Under."
Browns at Broncos (-3.5, 44.5): Set for an 8:20 start on the NFL Network. Denver has won 11 in a row over Cleveland, last in 2015. Denver's playoff chances took a big hit Sunday with a 20-14 loss in San Francisco to snap a three-game winning streak. Perhaps we should have seen this coming with the Broncos recently losing top receiver Emmanuel Sanders and No. 1 cornerback Chris Harris to season-ending injuries. The Broncos often were lining up three WRs who were either rookies or spent their rookie year in 2017 on the team's practice squad. Von Miller had a sack to tie the franchise record of 103.5 career. Rookie Bradley Chubb had two sacks and his 12 are a franchise rookie record. He's making a major push for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Cleveland is 3-2 under interim head coach Gregg Williams following a 26-20 win over Carolina. Baker Mayfield was 18 of 22 for 238 yards and a TD in outplaying fellow Heisman Trophy-winning QB Cam Newton. Mayfield has a touchdown pass in 10 consecutive starts, making him the first Browns quarterback to do that since Bernie Kosar in 1987. Jarvis Landry had a rushing score and a receiving one. Williams is becoming a candidate for the permanent job. The pick: Browns.
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