Are the Browns a safe bet to bounce back against Bengals?

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a pass to Jarvis Landry #80 of the Cleveland Browns for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a pass to Jarvis Landry #80 of the Cleveland Browns for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

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Bengals at Browns Picks, Predictions & Betting Odds

  • Odds: Browns -7
  • Over/Under: 41.5
  • Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: CBS

Odds as of Thursday evening.

The Browns were double-digit favorites when this spread opened, but have since fallen to -7 as of Thursday. The total has also seen a drop over the past few days, but nearly 70% of bettors like the over in this matchup. So where’s the best value?

Our experts preview this AFC North divisional matchup, with analysis of the odds, mismatches and more.

Bengals-Browns Injury Report

Which team is healthier? Browns

The Browns have a lengthy injury report, but everyone has been upgraded to either limited or full practice. So, it’s not as bad as it looks.

Baker Mayfield (hand/ribs) was upgraded to full practice on Thursday, so he should be close to 100% this weekend. Odell Beckham (groin) and Jarvis Landry (hip) continue to practice in a limited fashion, suggesting they’re trending towards playing.

Unsurprisingly, the Bengals will be without A.J. Green (ankle), but they will get John Ross (clavicle) back from injured reserve. Defensive end Sam Hubbard (knee) is also trending towards missing this game since he hasn’t practiced yet this week with a knee injury. He grades out as one of their best run defenders, per Pro Football Focus. Justin Bailey

Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.

Biggest Mismatch

Browns Running Backs vs. Bengals Linebackers

I get a morbid delight almost every week writing about how bad the Bengals linebackers have been. Almost regardless of opponent, they’re outmatched, and it just so happens that the Browns have maybe the league’s best duo of running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Dating back to last season, Chubb has averaged 108.7 yards and 0.68 touchdowns from scrimmage in his 22 games as the team’s lead back. Even with the return of Hunt, Chubb has averaged 114 yards on 21 carries and 2.5 targets per game over the past four weeks. For a lead back who plays on a 4-7 team and isn’t used heavily in the passing game, that’s pretty good.

And Hunt is probably the best No. 2 back in the NFL. In his 32 career games (including playoffs), he’s averaged 102.3 yards and 0.88 touchdowns.

Blessed with elite pass-catching skills, Hunt has especially contributed to the Browns as a receiver since making his season debut four weeks ago: The sample is small, but he’s averaged 6.3 targets and five receptions to go along with 6.3 carries per game. With that kind of usage, he’s more than just an ordinary change-of-pace back.

Over the past two weeks, Chubb has had a 67% snap rate and Hunt a 58% rate. They’re both seeing regular action, and they’re even playing a portion of their snaps together in two-running back sets, which is a great development. With two talented backs on the field at once, it’s hard for defenders to key in on either one of them.

And I expect that Bengals defenders will be particularly challenged against Chubb and Hunt, especially linebackers Nick Vigil and Germaine Pratt, whose Pro Football Focus grades notably subpar.

  • Nick Vigil: 56.0 overall grade | 52.5 run defense | 61.8 coverage
  • Germaine Pratt: 40.0 overall grade | 54.6 run defense | 35.6 coverage

The Bengals are No. 27 in rush defense and No. 28 in pass defense against running backs (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric). They’ve yielded 157.9 yards and one touchdown per game to the position. Basically, they’ve made opposing backfields look like Christian McCaffrey.

Against such Vigil, Pratt and the rest of the Bengals defense, Chubb and Hunt could combine for 200 yards and multiple touchdowns. Matthew Freedman

Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds

  • Projected Spread: Browns -8.5
  • Projected Total: 42

The Bengals decided to bench rookie Ryan Finley for Andy Dalton last week, inspiring my largest bet of the year: Bengals +4. I had projected the switch back to Dalton should impact the line by 2.5-3 points, yet the line slowly moved down to the key number of +3 and parked there. I spotted a market inefficiency when the total ended up rising 2.5-3 points, but not the spread.

Either way, the Bengals ended up beating the Jets outright and it appears that the market has correctly adjusted for Dalton this week, so I’m not seeing any value on this spread. The total could have some hidden value, though.

Dalton certainly improves the Bengals offense, which should force the Browns to keep their foot on the gas for all four quarters. With Baker Mayfield dealing with a finger injury, I’m guessing we’ll see a heavy run game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, which plays right into the Bengals’ weakness on defense: The Browns have the fourth-highest explosive run rate while the Bengals have allowed the third-highest explosive run rate.

Let’s wait for Mayfield’s status to be confirmed, but over 41 is a lean here. Sean Koerner

Expert Pick

Sean Zerillo: Under 41.5

The weather forecast calls for average wind speeds of greater than 16 mph in this matchup, which has caused the total to drop from an opening number of 43 down to 41.5.

If the forecast holds, this game will trigger the following system for betting unders in windy divisional games:

That system is 5-0 this season, and has only finished with one losing year since 2003-04 (3-4-1 in 2011-12).

Combined, the Bengals and Browns are 16-8 to the under this season, but the majority of tickets (70%) have bet the over in this matchup.

However, the total has moved opposite those tickets with sharp money (44%) triggering multiple steam and reverse line signals on the under.

I would bet this number down to 41.5, as 41 is one of the primary key numbers for betting totals.

Sean Zerillo is 195-131-4 (59.8%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.