This Halloween night, the NFL scheduling team has given us the fun little gift of a matchup between the two orangest teams in the NFL, the Ohio rivals, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Browns are limping into what they would really like to be a big home win, and while the Bengals seem to be finally hitting their stride, they’re also hitting some bad injury luck. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some predictions for what should be a gritty AFC North clash.
Bengals Vs. Browns Betting Odds
The Bengals are favored by 3 on the road in this one, and the points total is set at a relatively low 45.
Bengals Vs. Browns Prediction
The big story leading into this game will be the seemingly abrupt news of Ja’Marr Chase’s season being derailed for the near to medium future, as he just received bad news about a hip injury that could keep him sidelined for around 4 to 6 weeks. The Bengals have a good stable of wideouts behind Chase, but he’s a transformative talent and will be sorely missed. It’s worth noting that Burrow has basically never played well without Chase playing a huge role. He was a backup at Ohio State, a nobody in year one at LSU, while Chase was just establishing himself as a freshman, then exploded along with Chase in 2019. Then he struggled as a rookie before getting injured, and had his NFL breakout in 2021 when Chase re-joined him via the draft. So it’ll be extremely interesting to see what happens this time around.
The Bengals’ somewhat-improved line is also a bit banged up, so the diminished line and lack of Chase might evoke some memories of Burrow’s first year in Cincy.
All of this being said, it’s not like the Browns are in a particularly strong position right now. Their hope heading into this season was that Jacoby Brissett could keep the team afloat just enough for them to be in contention when Deshaun Watson returns from his 11-game suspension. At this point, that pursuit seems to be a bit of a pipe dream; a loss to Cincy would drop them to 2-6, with tough matchups against Miami, Buffalo, and Tampa looming before Watson returns. If they plan on doing anything this year other than making a push for the first overall pick, this game could be realistically described as a must-win.
The Browns also have a bit of an injury problem on the offensive line, and their defense could be missing any combination of Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Denzel Ward on the defensive side.
Despite the injuries to Cleveland’s defense, I’m taking the under in this one. The Browns are extremely banged up on the offensive line, by far their biggest strength, and the Bengals offense in its current state isn’t quite what I’d call a juggernaut. I do believe they’ll find enough plays in the passing game to win and cover, with Cleveland’s secondary in a bit of a flux state.
Bengals vs Browns Betting Trends
- The Bengals have covered the spread in 10 of their past 11 matchups against AFC foes, as well as 9 of their last 10 games following a straight-up win
- The Bengals have covered in 7 of their past 8 trips to Cleveland
- The over is 4-0 in the Browns’ past 4 home games, but the under has hit in the Bengals’ past 8 AFC games
Bengals Injuries: Ja’Marr Chase (O), Trey Hendrickson (Q), La’el Collins (Q)
Browns Injuries: Wyatt Teller (Q), Joe Haeg (Q), Denzel Ward (Q)
Bengals vs Browns Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Bengals Vs. Browns below.
Bengals Rushing Offense vs. Browns Run Defense
With Chase sidelined, some of the workload will of course be distributed across the rest of the pass-catchers, but there will also be increased reliance on the running game. The rushing attack in question has racked up just over 87 yards per game this season, fifth-worst in the NFL, due in large part to an extremely lackluster performance from the o-line (PFF run block grade of 55.5, 26th-best in the NFL). Joe Mixon has had a down year, due in part of course to the “new and improved” line struggling, as he’s only averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
Luckily for Cincy, the Browns are the 24th-best run stopping unit by yardage per game, and second-to-worst in the NFL by PFF’s measure. Many of the Browns’ key contributors on defense have been absolutely brutal against the run; Jordan Elliott and Jacob Phillips are both inside to top 4 on the team in regards to most snaps played defending the run, and they both have PFF run-stopping grades in the low 30s- not a typo. Grant Delpit, Jadeveon Clowney (in limited snaps) and Sione Takitaki have been the only real bright spots in this area, as even Myles Garrett has struggled, to the tune of a missed tackle rate over 16% and a stop rate of just 5%.
If the Browns want to make the Bengals really miss Chase, they’re going to have to make things hard for them on the ground and force them to be one-dimensional, without their best weapon. But the way their defense has been playing, that may be a bit of a pipe dream, even against Cincy’s mediocre ground game.
Browns Rushing Offense vs. Bengals Run Defense
Surprise! In a game where one team is missing their top receiver, the other is missing their franchise quarterback, and both o-lines are down in the dumps, we’re focusing on running the football. The Browns have done it extremely effectively this season, putting up 163.6 ground yards per game, third-most in the NFL, and earned the top rushing grade and second-best run blocking grade from PFF. This is of course on the shoulders of their excellent RB duo; Nick Chubb leads the league in rushing yards, averaging almost 6 per carry, over 4 of which are after contact. He also has yet to fumble a football this year. Kareem Hunt has struggled a bit by his standard, but he’s still effective, a big-play threat, and as good of an RB2 as you’ll find anywhere in this league. The Browns line has also done an excellent job paving the way for these two; they’re led by guard duo Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio, who have both garnered PFF run blocking grades in the mid-to-high 80s, and have combined for a total of two penalties. They’re also both relatively banged up this week, so that will be an area to watch whether or not both play.
The Bengals are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to run defense. Both in terms of yardage and PFF grade, they sit at or below league average. Their best run defender in the front seven has been edge rusher Sam Hubbard, and corner Mike Hilton has an impressive (for a DB) average depth of tackle of just 3 yards. Linebacker Logan Wilson and edge star Trey Hendrickson have both been mediocre, but look to be active after injuries and their improved performance would be an enormous boost for Cincy. DJ Reader has been awesome in interior defensive line, albeit in fairly limited snaps; he has also caught the injury bug. Being healthy would be nice for Cincy, but whether or not they have their first-choice 11 out there, a good chunk of their main contributors are going to have to show significant improvement to stop or even slow down the Browns’ extremely prolific rushing offense.