A difficult loss on Thursday night means I’m behind the 8-ball in Week 15 but there’s a series of intriguing games to spend our money on this week. The Rams were unbelievably stagnant on offense against the Cardinals, but once again Arizona has done it with depleted resources. It remains to be seen if they can keep that up as they head into the playoffs in a couple of weeks. To kick off today’s action we’ll turn to the Battle of Ohio as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Cleveland Browns. It’s Johnny Football time in Cleveland and the football world will be turning their collective eyes to watch the young kid from Texas A&M. It should be a match-up filled with good drama and some serious playoff implications as well. Read on below for a full game breakdown and our official wager on today’s contest.
Bengals vs. Browns Betting Odds:
Cincinnati Bengals +1.5 (-105)
@ Cleveland Browns -1.5 (-115)
Over 43.5 (-110)
Under 43.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
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Bengals vs. Browns Pick:
Well it was inevitable, but I’m glad it’s finally here. It’s time for Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel in Cleveland today, and what a week to make your official debut. Playoff implications in the Battle of Ohio is as big as it gets and the kid will definitely be thrown right into the fire today. While the Bengals currently hold the top spot in the AFC North, the division remains tight and their inconsistent play definitely gives hope to the Browns, Steelers, and Ravens who all trail behind.
Expect the Cleveland offense to get a big boost today. Both in ability and overall spirit, the Browns should be moving the chains with a lot more ease than they have been in recent weeks. Brian Hoyer, despite his solid start has been pretty pathetic in recent weeks. Finally tired of the bad statlines week-after-week, Manziel is in and expect some more versatility to the Cleveland attack today. For starters, the Bengals defense will be missing a key piece in Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. No player is more influential to a team defense than Burfict for Cincinnati and the Bengals will really struggle with his absence. When he’s been out in the past, the Bengals have looked lost. Expect that again today. The Bengals also boast a pretty brutal pass rush. They’ve generated the fewest sacks in the NFL, with just 15, and Manziel will receive ample time and protection in his first-ever NFL start. Manziel to Josh Gordon should be a connection we hear often today. Even if Manziel can’t get it done with his arm, the ground game with the Browns should be dynamic as well. The Bengals have conceded 4.42 yards per carry all season long, good for 24th right now in the NFL. That’s pretty brutal and look for Isiah Crowell to take full advantage of a porous front-seven from the Bengals – especially without Burfict’s presence. The Bengals will have all sorts of trouble containing the versatility Cleveland’s offense will bring today.
On the other side, look for Andy Dalton of the Bengals to continue his inconsistent ways. While he has shown some really strong flashes in the NFL thus far in his career, he still cannot be trusted to win key games on a weekly basis. One of Dalton’s worst-ever games was this season when he played Cleveland for the first time. The problem? Dealing with Browns’ cornerback Joe Haden. Dalton surely has nightmares about Haden roaming in Cleveland’s secondary, and those nightmares should turn to reality come Sunday afternoon. Haden of course will be all over star wideout A.J. Green today, and in the career match-up so far, Haden has gained the upper hand in virtually every match-up. Without Green, Dalton is nothing. As A.J. Green goes, so does the Bengals offense. In Dalton’s past three games against the Browns, he’s got a horrible 45% pass completion rate, with just 3.78 yards per pass attempt. He’s thrown just three TD’s to six interceptions as well. Those are just horrific numbers and I doubt it turns much today. Making matters worse is the time he’ll receive in the pocket. It will be virtually non-existent as the Browns possess a dynamic pass rush, one that gave Andrew Luck fits on every play last week. Dalton will be hard-pressed to deal with that effectively, and as a result make a lot of ill-advised decisions.
This is a great spot for Cleveland and the recipe is right for a win in Manziel’s debut. The crowd and the team will be fired up, and Cleveland’s recent success at shutting down Dalton and Green will lead to yet another convincing victory. Despite the Bengals lead in the AFC North they’ve got a ton of holes and possess some evident consistency issues. We’re banking on them turning in yet another dismal performance, and look for Manziel and the Browns to do just enough on offense to get the victory.
PICK = Browns -1.5 (-115)