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Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: Preview and Pick
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: Preview and Pick
The Cleveland Browns were left for dead early in the season after trading one of the best players and playing more than one quarterback. Now after a bye week they head to Cincinnati to take on the free falling Bengals. The Browns have already beaten the Bengals once this season and another win in this game could get the Browns right back into the race for the division as well as the NFL Playoffs.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game has the Bengals listed as (-6) point favorites. The Bengals are off an overtime loss against the Baltimore Ravens and will need to regroup for this game. Despite that loss the sports betting consensus shows that over 65 percent of the betting public is taking the home team in this game. The point spread has yet to change, but keep an eye on the NFL odds at your favorite top rated sportsbook.
The Bengals needed a Hail Mary in the last outing against the Ravens to go to overtime, but still struggled. Despite their comeback, the Bengals lost their second straight overtime game. Dalton went 24 for 51 for 274 yards and three interceptions and was sacked five times as the Bengals lost to Baltimore for the fifth time in six games. And now it's their turn to lament a run of narrow defeats. They will have to shake that off before going home to host the Browns.
The Browns have plenty of confidence and one of the most underrated defenses in the league. They understand that this is one of the biggest games of the year and if they win, they could actually go to the playoffs.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal good and bad betting trends for both teams heading into his game. The total has gone under in 4 of Cleveland's last 6 games when playing on the road against Cincinnati and the total has gone under in 6 of Cleveland's last 9 games on the road. Cleveland is 6-2-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 9 games when playing Cincinnati, 5-13 straight up in its last 18 games when playing Cincinnati, 2-17 straight up in its last 19 games on the road and 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games on the road. Cincinnati is 5-0 straight up in its last 5 games at home and 13-6 straight up in its last 19 games overall.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
D'Qwell Jackson was on a plane from Washington D.C. back to Cleveland Sunday when Cincinnati's A.J Green plucked Andy Dalton's tipped Hail Mary pass out of the air to tie the Ravens in regulation.
By the time he landed, Jackson's phone was flooded with texts from a buddy keeping him up on the game.
"I can't tell you exactly what he said, but he told me to get home as soon as I could,'' Jackson said.
Jackson arrived home in Westlake just in time to see Baltimore kick the game-winning field goal in overtime to beat the Bengals 20-17.
It was the outcome all of BrownsTown was hoping for, tightened the AFC North race like a blood-pressure cuff around a bicep. It turned Sunday's showdown between the Browns and Bengals in Cincinnati into the biggest game the Browns have played since the 2007 finale, when they need a win to keep playoff hopes alive. They did, but the Colts rested their starters that week and lost to keep the 10-6 Browns out of the postseason.
"I’m telling you personally – it’s time,'' said Jackson. "We're right in the middle of the pack (and) we definitely earned the right to be in this position. We just have to take care of our business. We don’t know how things are going to play out, what the scenario will be. We can’t focus on that. All we can focus on is being sharp Wednesday, take advantage of this time we have off and over-prepare for Cincinnati because they’re coming off a loss.''
The Bengals' loss -- their second straight in overtime -- dropped them to 6-4, and moved the Ravens into a second-place tie with the Browns at 4-5. If the Browns can sweep the Bengals and beat the 3-6 Steelers at home next week while the Bengals are on their bye, they'll be tied for first place in the AFC North with five games to go.
Did you hear that Browns fans? Tied for first in the AFC with five games remaining in the season.
“Absolutely,'' said insider linebacker Jackson. "You’ve still got to go out and play. It’s no different. We’re the same team as last year, just a different mindset, playing with more confidence. With everything that’s happened this year, we couldn’t ask to be in a better position.
"Now we know who we have. We know who’s going to be here. We know who’s playing quarterback. We know somewhat what our identity is. So now it’s time to make those leaps and bounds throughout the season to get us where we want to be.”
The Browns own the only winning division record in the AFC North at 2-1. The Bengals are 1-2 and the Ravens are 2-2. The Steelers are 1-1. The Browns have three division games remaining, including two against the struggling Steelers.
"It makes it easy getting up in the morning," said Jackson, who's never made the playoffs in his seven seasons. "It makes everything taste a little better. Those nicks and bruises, they don't hurt as much. We're in a good place right now and I want to keep it that way.''
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who dislikes the Ravens as much as anyone, found himself shouting at his TV when Green caught the Hail Mary, served to him so graciously like Earl Grey tea on a platter by Ravens safety James Ihedigbo (y'all remember Dig, he of Choke-gate, no?).
Taylor and others, who feel they're onto something big this season, view it as an opportunity to pounce.
"Yeah, just a chance to sweep Cincinnati and just let 'em know it’s a new face in the AFC North,'' said Taylor. "Like coach is saying, we're not the little brother anymore.''
But are these young Browns ready for the magnitude of the game that awaits them?
"We're ready,'' said Taylor. "And we’ve showed people what we can do with the top-notch teams. Like with the Chiefs, they’re 9-0 right now and we wish we could have that game back, the first half at least, how we did 'em the second half. We know we can go out there and do it, we’ve just got to go out there and get it together.''
But what makes the big man so sure these Browns can deliver?
"Because it’s been a while, man,'' said Taylor. "Everybody talking about Cleveland this, the mistake on the lake, all this other stuff, man. It's time for a change. We're tired of losing around here. We’ve got the talent in here to go all the way to the top, we’ve just got to get it done.''
Safety T.J. Ward said the Browns are still riding high from their slump-busting 24-18 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. There's something about watching Sunday's Ravens-Bengals game and knowing the Browns knocked off both teams, while holding the Bengals to a season-low in points in the Browns' 17-6 victory on Sept. 29.
"We're very confident,'' said Ward. "I think this win over Baltimore was huge for us and going into this week, coming off the bye week and going into this next week having a chance to be tied for the division and having two-up on the division leaders which is Cincinnati would be huge. I think we’re just focusing on the next game and closing it out.”
The Browns are one victory away from matching their win total from last season.
"I think guys are tired of that culture and that mindset of not being relevant in November,'' said tight end Jordan Cameron. "We just gotta keep this rolling. We've got some good momentum and we've got guys playing pretty well -- a lot of guys playing well and so that helps. It's going to be a team victory if we can get it done and we just gotta play for four quarters and put together a game.''
The Browns are relatively healthy, except for linebacker Quentin Groves going on injured reserve Monday with an ankle injury that will require surgery. Quarterback Jason Campbell, who suffered bruised ribs against the Ravens, threw Monday and didn't seem to be in any obvious pain.
"We're as healthy as we've been in a while,'' said Jackson.
Coach Rob Chudzinski didn't notice any difference in his players after the bye.
"As we've done all season long, they’ve been focused on the game that they’re playing,'' said Chudzinski. "I think the guys have seen that we can play with anybody. If we’re on top of our game and doing the things that we need to do and taking care of ourselves. I think that they’re excited about playing. That’s what I see in them.”
Despite a long "honey-do'' list, three or four trips to the grocery store and at least one visit to a pancake house with three hungry kids over the weekend, Chudzinski managed to catch that Hail Mary pass out of the corner of his eye.
“I didn’t see the whole game live; I saw parts of it. I did see that particular play,'' he said. "Obviously, the game yesterday was a great game, the Baltimore-Cincinnati game. Typical AFC North-type game; physical, hard-fought, down to the wire and a real defensive battle.
"As I said, we’ve shifted our focus to Cincinnati. They’re an outstanding team, very talented. They’re leading the division and we’re excited to play them. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, especially being on the road.''
The Browns practiced outside in biting winds Monday, but the possibilities in the air took the edge off.
"For some of the guys like (Barkevious) Mingo, playing in Louisiana, he hasn’t gotten used to the cold yet, so he’s going to be a little bundled up,'' said Jackson. "He'll get over it.''
That's because these Browns feel like they're just getting warmed up.
Running the ball may be out of vogue in the NFL in some venues, but it never goes out of style in the AFC North. Physical toughness is only part of the reason why.
The biggest games of the year in this division are played outdoors in cold and blustery winds, such as what greeted the Browns in Cincinnati in the 2007 game. Throwing the ball 48 times in hazardous conditions is a recipe for disaster.
Now, weather may or may not be a factor in Cincinnati on Sunday. Early forecasts call for unseasonably high temperatures in the 60s with a chance of rain. But eventually, Chudzinski’s passing game will need much more from the running game than it is currently receiving.
The other lesson from that 2007 game is don’t get ahead of yourselves. That 2007 team, riding high at 9-5, celebrated its success way too early. It had been five years since the team’s last playoff appearance. Everyone thought those Browns were playoff-bound.
Now that drought has stretched to 11 years. Only Joe Thomas and D’Qwell Jackson have experienced a winning season in Cleveland on the current roster.
“We’re too young to keep talking about it,” Jackson said Monday. “We still have to play the game. Once we get to that point, I’ll be the first in line to talk about it. Right now, Coach has his saying: ‘Win the one.’”
Sunday’s game in Cincinnati is the biggest game of the year for the Browns. But only because it is the one they are playing this week.
The Cincinnati Bengals are still on top of the AFC North despite back-to-back overtime losses.
Another setback this week against the visiting Cleveland Browns would not only see their advantage all but disappear, it would also mark the first time they've been swept in the season series in 11 years.
Cincinnati looks to restore its recent domination of its intrastate rivalry with Cleveland on Sunday.
After a 17-6 loss in Cleveland on Sept. 29, their second consecutive defeat in the series after winning 13 of 16, the Bengals (6-4) won four straight to build a healthy divisional lead over the erratic Browns and Ravens.
But becoming the 16th team in league history to drop consecutive games in overtime has seen that edge fall to 1 1/2 games.
"We pushed things forward very positively, now we've dug a little bit of a hole and we've got to climb out and play better this week against the Browns," coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Bengals were impressive in battling back from large deficits in both losses but couldn't close things out. They overcame a 17-3 hole at Miami two weeks ago before Andy Dalton was sacked for a safety in overtime.
Cincinnati erased Baltimore's 17-0 halftime advantage last week, tying the game at the end of regulation on A.J. Green's improbable 51-yard touchdown catch. But the offense stalled in the extra period, allowing the Ravens to kick the winning field goal.
Dalton has been crucial in the comeback efforts, but he's also again come under fire for shaky play overall with a 53.8 passer rating over the last two games. He was also inefficient against the Browns, going 23 for 42 with 206 yards and an interception.
Though Cincinnati has fallen in a rut, the schedule ahead is favorable. Owning a 4-0 record at home, the Bengals will play four of their last six in Cincinnati, and only one remaining opponent boasts a winning record.
"We know what we have in front of us," cornerback Terence Newman said. "We just have to win some football games."
Coming out of their bye week, the Browns (4-5) are one win shy of matching last year's total and very much alive in a muddled AFC playoff picture.
Sweeping the Bengals for the first time since 2002 would be a big accomplishment in itself for a franchise that has lost 10-plus games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
"It's been a while man," nose tackle Phil Taylor said. "Everybody talking about Cleveland this, the mistake on the lake, all this other stuff, man. It's time for a change. We're tired of losing around here. We've got the talent in here to go all the way to the top, we've just got to get it done."
Jason Campbell has recorded Cleveland's highest passer ratings of the season in his first two starts with the team, coming up just short in a 23-17 loss at undefeated Kansas City before leading the Browns to a 24-18 victory over Baltimore on Nov. 3.
He suffered bruised ribs against the Ravens, but coach Rob Chudzinski said he was full speed in practice Monday. Campbell has gone 45 of 71 for 555 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in the last two games while providing more stability for an offense that had been marred by Brandon Weeden's inconsistency and Brian Hoyer's season-ending knee injury.
"You saw him from a leadership standpoint," Chudzinski said. "The calmness out there, the ability in that final drive to make plays when that was crunch time and in a critical part in the game and just his presence with our younger guys. What he's doing is really giving us a life."
Campbell should have some potent targets to work with, given what Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron have done against the Bengals. Gordon has caught seven passes for 170 yards and a score in his last two games versus Cincinnati, while Cameron had 10 receptions for 91 yards and a TD in the season's first meeting.
Giovani Bernard, who is second among rookie running backs with 723 scrimmage yards and has three TDs over his last two games, will face a Cleveland defense that has been vulnerable of late against dynamic backs.
The Browns surrendered a combined 363 yards to Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles in their last three games. Bernard totaled 75 yards on 16 touches against them earlier this season.
Green has gone over 100 receiving yards in five straight games, but Cleveland held him to 51 on seven catches in Week 4.
A franchise with just three plus-.500 seasons and two playoff appearances since a streak of five straight postseason berths ended in 1989, the Browns have reached Week 11 of 2013 in the midst of a crowded chase for the AFC's final wild card playoff slot.
Cleveland trails the conference's current sixth seed - the New York Jets - by a single game and will face coach Rex Ryan and Co. in a potentially important Week 16 game.
But first things first, which means a Sunday afternoon chance to match last season's five victories and sweep the Cincinnati Bengals in a season series for the first time since 2002.
"It's been a while," nose tackle Phil Taylor said. "Everybody talking about Cleveland this, the mistake on the lake, all this other stuff. It's time for a change. We're tired of losing around here. We've got the talent in here to go all the way to the top, we've just got to get it done."
The Browns have lost at least 10 games in nine of the last 10 seasons.
The most recent part of the 2013 renaissance is thanks to vagabond veteran Jason Campbell, who's started the last two games - a Week 8 loss to Kansas City and a Week 9 defeat of Baltimore. Cleveland was off on its bye last weekend.
Campbell, who's started games for three other NFL teams - Washington, Oakland and Chicago - has completed 63.3 percent of 71 passes for 555 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in his two starts with the Browns. Cleveland was 0-4 in games started by Brandon Weeden and 3-0 in games started by Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, while Weeden, the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft, recovered from a thumb injury only to lose the starting gig to Campbell.
"You saw him from a leadership standpoint," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. "The calmness out there, the ability in that final drive to make plays when that was crunch time and in a critical part in the game and just his presence with our younger guys.
"What he's doing is really giving us a life."
His favorite targets have been recent thorns in the side of the Bengals.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon has seven receptions for 170 yards and a TD in two games against Cincinnati, while Jordan Cameron blitzed the Bengals for 10 catches, 91 yards and a TD in Cleveland's 17-6 home victory on Sept. 29..
Another Browns win would get Cleveland within a game of the North Division- leading Bengals, who've seen a 6-2 start evaporate after consecutive overtime losses at Miami and Baltimore - which made them the 16th team in history to suffer two such defeats.
Following Cleveland's Week 4 win, Cincinnati won four in a row.
"We pushed things forward very positively," coach Marvin Lewis said. "Now we've dug a little bit of a hole and we've got to climb out and play better this week against the Browns."
The Bengals trailed Miami, 17-3, before losing in the extra session when quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked in the end zone for a game-ending safety. Similarly, they trailed Baltimore, 17-0, at halftime before rallying to tie in the final seconds. Also similarly, they were beaten in the overtime period by a field goal.
Rookie Giovani Bernard has three TDs in the two prolonged losses and could ratchet up his numbers against a Cleveland team that allowed an average of 121 yards per game against Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles in its last three games.
Bernard had 37 yards in the first meeting in September, while wide receiver A.J. Green had seven catches for 51 yards.
Dalton's QB rating has plummeted to 53.8 over the last two games and he completed just 54.7 percent of his passes - down 32 points from his season- long mark of 86.7.
"We know what we have in front of us," cornerback Terence Newman said. "We just have to win some football games."
Long criticized during an NFL career that's featured moments of brilliance followed by moments of utter ineptitude, the 31-year-old Campbell has leaned far more toward the former through three appearances with the Browns -- completing more than 60 percent of his throws and maintaining a 5-to-0 ratio of TDs to interceptions. If he maintains that level, the Browns transform from afterthought to playoff worthy.
Carry the load.
The Bengals found out just how good Cleveland defends the run (sixth-best in the league, 98.2 yards per game) when the teams met the first time and Cincinnati was held to 63 ground yards.
That number needs to change this time around to give Dalton more room to maneuver and get the ball to his corps of capable receivers. That means a big role from Bernard, who carried just 10 times in the first matchup and never went for more than six yards on any attempt.