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Ben Gretch previews Thursday Night Football and provides his picks for the Bengals @ Browns

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Predictions

Best Bet: Under 43 Points @ - 103

 - Both the Browns and Bengals threw for fewer than 200 yards in Week 1 losses

It’s our first short-week Thursday Night Football game of the season, and we get a matchup of two teams with high hopes for 2020 that failed to meet expectations in Week 1. Both the Browns and Bengals improved their rosters over the offseason, but both looked like their old selves in Week 1.

At first blush, Cleveland -6 feels like a hefty line, particularly after they lost 38-6 on the road in Baltimore Sunday. The final scoreline in Cincinnati was far more competitive, with the Bengals falling to the Chargers 16-13 at home. Rookie first-overall pick Joe Burrow was under constant pressure from the Chargers’ menacing offensive line in that one, but we saw some positive flashes from him. The highlight of his day was a 23-yard touchdown scramble, and he showed off his under-discussed athleticism with 46 rushing yards on the day.

Cleveland won't apply quite as much pressure as Los Angeles did, so Burrow should have a little more time in the pocket in Week 2. If that happens, Burrow could turn things around quickly, particularly given veteran receiver A.J. Green looked healthy after missing 2019. Green's presence, along with Tyler Boyd and speedster John Ross — who Burrow narrowly overshot on a would-have-been 35-yard touchdown in the end zone — gives Burrow a trio of receivers that can really stress secondaries.

But trusting a rookie signal-caller in his first road start, on a short week, after a subpar opener, feels like pressing. Burrow could wind up having a strong rookie season, but that doesn’t mean the Bengals offense will have everything fixed in four days’ time. This is a team to consider backing in the future, maybe as soon as Week 3. But I'm being cautious here.

That doesn't mean I have a ton of faith in the Browns, who in Week 1 looked far too much like the 2019 version of themselves. Baker Mayfield looked lost in the pocket, and his timing with Odell Beckham was clearly not improved after the offseason. Mayfield and Beckham connected for just three completions on a team-high 10 targets, several of which were not catchable. The brightest spot in the passing game was former first-round pick David Njoku, who caught all three targets he saw for 50 yards and a score. But Njoku exited with a knee injury that landed him on IR, and he won’t play in Week 2.

The offseason hope for the Browns was the head coaching change could provide some stability and quickly elevate this talented roster. Freddie Kitchens looked overmatched on the sidelines in 2019, but his replacement Kevin Stefanski didn’t get off to a much better start in 2020. Some rust was perhaps to be expected for a first-time head coach like Stefanski, given the shortened offseason and a difficult Week 1 matchup. He wasn't helped by the injury bug, which bit the Browns. They go into Thursday night with four players ruled out and six listed as questionable, including three offensive linemen.

But Cleveland returns home in Week 2, and they will look to build on some things they did do well, most notably on the ground. Their running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 132 rushing yards on 23 carries, each averaging over 5.5 yards per carry. The thought is both of these offenses will play conservatively on the short week, hoping to pick their spots and lean on their talented running backs while their young quarterbacks find their footing. Neither passing offense looked sharp in Week 1, and the short week to prepare is the key here. Both offenses have the talent to click and come away with a strong performance, but expecting a high-scoring affair on both sides seems unwise. Give me the under.

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Latest Odds

Bengals @ Browns Spread: Browns -6

Bengals @ Browns Over/Under: 43 Points

Bengals @ Browns Moneyline: Browns -250, Bengals +215

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns Key Stats (Powered by StatsChecker)

- Joe Mixon has scored a touchdown in each of the Bengals' last three games as road underdogs

- The Bengals have lost each of their last 13 road games

- Each of the Browns last seven night games have gone UNDER the total points line

For in-depth stats to aid your betting throughout the NFL season, StatsChecker has you covered.

Article Author


Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.


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