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Free NFL Pick
The Cincinnati Bengals (6-4, 4-0 home) are scheduled to host the Cleveland Browns (4-5, 1-3 away) at Paul Brown Stadium at 1 PM EST on Sunday. The in-state and divisional rivals met in week 4 with the Browns taking a 17-6 win. Cincinnati has gone 4-2 since then while the Browns are exiting a much welcomed BYE week after going 2-3 since beating the Bengals. Despite exiting two OT losses against teams they were supposed to beat, the Bengals are -5.5 point favorites with 57% public support at sportsbook.com.
After demoralizing the New York Jets 49-9 in week 8, the Bengals looked like a team that could be the class of the AFC. However, they took two big steps back with losses to Miami (22-20 OT) and Baltimore (20-17 OT). This is a team that has all the talent in the world, but hasn't been able to win a playoff game in over two decades. That could change this season, but it all rides on QB Andy Dalton.
The Bengals live and die based on the play of Dalton. The Rose Bowl winning TCU alum has an average QB rating of 65.8 in the Bengals four losses, but takes a massive leap to 106 in games where Cincinnati wins. He looked like a champion in consecutive games against Detroit and New York with a total of 697 YDs, 8 TDs and 1 INT on 50/74 passing. For as good as he was in those games, he was equally bad in the next two, going 56/104 for 612 YDs, 2 TDs and 6 INTs. He was easily contained in his first meeting with the Browns, posting 206 YDs and an INT on 23/42 passing. This game is a route win for the Bengals if Dalton comes to play, but could be an embarrassing loss if he continues his bad run.
Cleveland has had their QB troubles as well, but Jason Campbell appears to be the answer. The nine year NFL vet is a combined 45/71 for 555 YDs and 5 TDs in his two starts which came on the road against Kansas City and at home against Baltimore. His top receiving threats are WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron. Gordon has 35 recs for 626 YDs and 3 TDs this year. Cameron, a great red zone target, has 50 catches for 600 YDs and 6 TDs.
The Browns are not an offensive juggernaut, but their defense makes up for that. CB Joe Haden is a shutdown corner and will give WR AJ Green fits. They can stop the run too; the Browns are 6th in the NFL and give up just 98.2 YPG.
Cincinnati's defense isn't bad either. Despite losing DT Geno Atkins, they looked good against Baltimore and allowed only 189 YDs, picked off Joe Flacco twice and forced a fumble. A performance like that rarely losses, but speaks to just how bad Dalton played. LB Vincent Rey was a bright spot last week. He played in place of the injured Rey Maualuga. He had three sacks to go along with 15 tackles and an INT.
Bengals OC Jay Gruden might consider getting more carries for rookie RB Giovani Bernard. The quick runner has 419 YDs on 95 carries and has reached the end zone four times. RB BenJarvus Greene-Ellis is no slouch either; he's got 460 YDs on 160 carries for three TDs.
These two teams have very poor offensive yards per point numbers, both around 16. That makes both risky propositions as favorites. Still not sure how Cinci managed 49 points on the Jets, but that certainly isn't the norm with them. That being said, we're still going to back the Bengals here. We think they get a little payback for their earlier loss to the Browns and frankly, we think they're the better team. More times than not, if you can pick the straight up winner of an NFL game, you'll get the cover as well.
Our score prediction model backs up that thinking, predicting an 8 point Bengals win when using full season stats. Bengals -5.5
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