NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are on a bye week, which is well-deserved after the most incredible offensive regular-season performance in league history on Monday night. So, that's two marquee teams off the Week 12 schedule. Four more are taken away because of the Thanksgiving tripleheader: Chicago (at Detroit), Washington and Dallas (vs. each other), and New Orleans (vs. Atlanta).
Long story short, that leaves rather slim pickings on Sunday to choose from. Jaguars-Bills? Uh, no thanks. Patriots-Jets? Ha. Giants-Eagles? Niners-Bucs? Dolphins-Colts? Nah. The Packers-Vikings on Sunday night game is important, but we looked at Green Bay last Thursday (and were right to bet against Packers) and Minnesota last Sunday (and were right to bet against Vikings).
That leaves us with Cleveland at Cincinnati, which probably has very little interest nationally outside the state of Ohio. The Browns are certainly better this year at 3-6-1 but in their standard spot of last in the AFC North. Cincinnati started 4-1 but is now 5-5 and sitting three behind Pittsburgh in the loss column in the division and seventh in the AFC overall. It's possible, then, that Cincinnati could be a wild-card team. The Bengals would win head-to-head tiebreakers over Indianapolis and Miami, and they could make some noise with this remaining schedule: vs. Broncos, at Chargers, vs. Raiders, at Browns, at Steelers. Cincinnati probably loses in L.A. but could win all the rest - Pittsburgh might be locked into its playoff seeding by Week 17.
Really, though, I'm previewing this because of Hue Jackson.
Browns at Bengals Betting Story Lines
Cleveland was literally only three plays from starting 4-0 but instead was 1-2-1. Then, things started going downhill and Jackson was fired following a Week 8 33-18 loss in Pittsburgh. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley went with Jackson, but I don't care about Haley. The Browns lost their first game under defensive coordinator and interim coach Gregg Williams, 37-21, but there's no shame in losing to the Chiefs.
In Week 10, the Browns stopped a four-game skid by thoroughly beating the visiting Falcons 28-16. Baker Mayfield threw a career-high three TD passes and Nick Chubb had a career-high 176 yards rushing, including a 92-yard score. There's some young talent here, folks.
The Bengals, meanwhile, came out of their Week 9 bye at home vs. New Orleans and were trashed 51-14 by the red-hot Saints. Two days after that, the team announced Jackson was hired as special assistant to the head coach. Do I think this was done in part to stick it to the Browns? I do, because Jackson obviously is still getting paid by Cleveland. I'm also sure that Marvin Lewis generally likes Jackson. After all, Jackson was first hired by Lewis in 2004 as the Bengals' receivers coach. After Jackson spent one year as head coach of the Raiders, he was again hired by Lewis in 2012 spent 2014-15 as the offensive coordinator.
I'm quite sure that Lewis also thinks adding Jackson will help his team get two wins over the Browns - which would be just one shy of how many wins Jackson had in 40 games in charge of Cleveland. I can't remember a head coach jumping into a role this quickly for a division opponent. Some believe Jackson could take over for Lewis after this season, which would be typical Bengals opaque thinking.
There's two ways to look at Jackson here. In theory, he could help motivate the Cleveland players if they were happy to get rid of him. On the flip side, who knows more about that offense? Williams did say it would be pointless to change up the Browns' calls or schemes dramatically given that Jackson knows the playbook by heart. For what it's worth, Jackson is apparently helping the Bengals ON DEFENSE. Hmm. Lewis took over the defense not long ago, firing coordinator Teryl Austin after the Saints loss.
The Browns are pretty healthy off their bye. Not year clear if Cincinnati will have No. 1 receiver AJ Green. He has missed the past two with a foot injury, and it's no coincidence that Andy Dalton has struggled. It is looking promising for Green, though. Cincinnati also has placed starting linebacker Preston Brown on injured reserve.
Browns at Bengals Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Cincinnati is a 3-point favorite (-120) with a total of 47.5. On the moneyline, the Bengals are -168 and Browns +148. On the alternates lines, Cincinnati is -3.5 (+105) and -2.5 (-145). The Browns are 6-4 against the spread (2-2 on road) and 5-5 "over/under" (2-2 on road). The Bengals are 5-5 ATS (2-3 at home) and 7-3 O/U (3-2 at home).
Cleveland is 8-23 ATS in its past 31 November games. It is 5-15-1 ATS in its past 21 vs. the AFC North. Cincinnati is 9-2 ATS in its past 11 vs. the AFC and 5-1 ATS in previous six against the division. The Bengals are 15-7 ATS in the past 22 vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 4-1 in the Browns' past five following a bye. It's 6-1 in Cincinnati's past seven vs. the division. The over is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Browns at Bengals Betting Prediction
I really don't see what I'm missing here? The Browns have lost and failed to cover the past seven in the series, losing on average by more than 21 points per. I think Jackson is a huge advantage for the Bengals. Give the 2.5 and go over the total.
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