The Thursday Night game this week pits two divisional rivals in the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals currently sit at 5-2-1, while Cleveland is just a half game back at 5-3. The winner will be one step closer to winning the division and/or making the playoffs, while the loser will have some work to do if they want to play into January.
Honestly, neither of these teams are as good as their record indicates. The Browns started off by playing above their skill level, and squeaked out close games against the Saints and Titans. Recently, their level of play has deteriorated, but they’ve survived with a 2-1 record thanks to playing the equally hapless Jaguars, Raiders, and Bucs. Ever since Alex Mack went down, the team has been unable to establish the run game and is averaging a very ugly 1.9 yard per carry over their last 3 games. To make things worse, they’ve struggled to run against three of the worst defensive teams in football, so things could get downright ugly tonight against the Bengals.
The Bengals on the other hand have really benefitted from two lucky plays and a schedule full of cupcakes. They beat the Ravens twice, once on a late bomb to AJ Green and the second only after a late TD for Steve Smith was called back for offensive pass interference. Other than that their wins have come against the Falcons, Titans, and Jaguars, who only have a combined five wins this late into the season. The only two legitimate playoff teams that they’ve faced are New England and Indianapolis, and they’ve lost those two games by a combined score of 60-17. Cleveland is certainly not on their level, but they’re also not going to be a pushover.
Both teams also have some non game factors working in their favor as well. The Bengals have been incredible at home recently, owning a 14-0 record straight up in their last 14. Devon Still’s daughter Leah will also be in attendance for the first time tonight, and I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be a little extra motivated to play with her in the stands.
However, the action and spread is definitely in Cleveland’s favor. Almost 75% of the bets have gone on Cincinnati so far, and yet the spread refuses to move onto the key number of 7. I think Vegas expects this to be a close game, and they don’t want the sharps to have a chance to pound the Browns with a full touchdown.
The Bottom Line: Ultimately, I’m going to take the Browns plus the points tonight. I think the Bengals are pretty mediocre and they really don’t deserve to be laying this many points against almost anyone. The Browns may not be a good bet as a favorite, but I think they’re more than capable as a medium sized dog.
The Pick: Cleveland Browns +6.5 @ Cincinnati Bengals
Thursday Night Record: 5-4
Last Weeks Pick: New Orleans Saints -3 (Win)
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