Past Expert Picks
The Bengals gave up 430 yards to the Colts last week and they are dealing with turmoil due to the coaching staff's handling of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. While Cleveland got battered by the Steelers, the Browns showed in the earlier matchup vs. Cincinnati that they can move the ball at will. Back Cleveland, which averaged 7.5 yards per play in the first meeting, to sweep Cincy and cover.
The more TV commercials Baker Mayfield appears in, the worse he gets. The Bengals reappear on the Browns’ schedule at an opportune time for him. Cleveland rolled up 35 points on them in Week 2. With Cincy allowing 5.1 yards per carry, tied for second most, Mayfield can lean on his top-ranked rushing unit. RB Nick Chubb’s season is out, but his absence is more than offset by Joe Mixon (foot) missing. Another key absentee: Cincy CB William Jackson (concussion), who intercepted Mayfield in the prior meeting.
Many people probably think this game comes down to the health of Baker Mayfield, but here's why that's not the case: the Browns didn't need him to to much at all to win the first meeting between these teams. While the Bengals barely covered in that one thanks to a TD at the end of the game, Cleveland rolled up 215 rushing yards against a bad Bengals run defense, and even with Nick Chubb out and Kareem Hunt nursing an injury, the Browns should continue to have success on the ground here. Joe Burrow has flashed but the Bengals offense hasn't looked great, and their O-line is 31st in adjusted sack rate. That's not good with Myles Garrett and Co. coming to town.
The key factor here isn’t about past wins, losses, or covers, but more about what team does the best in an area against a team that does poorly defending it. The Browns lead the league in rushing (169 ypg) while the Bengals are No. 27 stopping the run (142 ypg allowed). The Browns are also the most opportunistic in creating turnovers (13) while the Bengals offense has had eight turnovers. The Browns have six game films to figure Joe Burrow out, they bully the Bengals and cover.
The only team that Cleveland has outgained was Cincinnati in Week 2. The Browns won 35-30, but they outgained the Bengals by 3.5 yards per play. The Browns are very emotional after losing 38-7 to Pittsburgh. Quarterback Baker Mayfield (chest) did not practice last week and was very ineffective. This week it looks like Mayfield is ready to go.
Cleveland @ Cincinnati | 10/25 | 5:00 PM UTC
Despite their performance last week against the Colts, I'm not as confident in Cincinnati's ability to score the roughly 24 points implied by this total. As you'd expect of a rookie QB, Joe Burrow's performance suffers when pressured, and only Carson Wentz has been sacked more often this season. While not elite, Cleveland's pass rush ranks 9th in the NFL in PFF's Pass Rush Pressures metric. I think they put enough pressure on Burrow this Sunday to limit Cincinnati's offensive ceiling and keep us comfortably under the total.