Rookie quarterback sensation Andy Dalton led the NFL last week in passing yards and he'll need another strong performance as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Cleveland Browns while fighting it out for a wild card or possible division title in the AFC.
Kickoff is set for Sunday, November 27th in Cincinnati, Ohio at 1:00 pm ET.
Betting odds currently have the Bengals as a 7.5 point favorite but has now moved to 9, with the total listed at 37.5.
The opportunity is there
The AFC North division currently has a tight race going on with 6 games to go. The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3), Baltimore Ravens (7-3), and Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) all have a shot at the title and are in the running for the wild card. It would take a long winning streak for the Cleveland Browns to get into contention at 4-6 but they're not completely out of the wild card spot. Both the Bengals and the Browns have something to play for and that will give them incentive in this football game.
2nd Round sensation
Considering where he was taken in the draft this past year (2nd round, 3rd pick), rookie Andy Dalton has been the best pick in the draft this season. Yes, Cam Newton looks like a future superstar but he was expected to be as the 1st pick in the NFL Draft. Acutally, Dalton has had more success with his team than Newton has had with the Panthers. Of course a team isn't made up of just the quarterback, but the Bengals are more than satisfied with their pick.
Bye, Bye Palmer
After Carson Palmer abruptly decided to retire (and then comeback to football), Andy Dalton has proven that the Bengals don't need Palmer. He's taken a 4-12 team to a mark of respectability at 6-4. Expect Dalton to put his best foot forward in this game due to the importance of it and coming off of a disappointing 31-24 loss to Baltimore last week.
On the season, Dalton has 2239 yards with 15 TD and 12 INT. He's only been sacked 14 times in 10 games and the offensive line can receive congratulations from Bengals backers for their strong protection. The numbers aren't huge but Dalton has played strong when it counted and the main number is the number in the "W" column and Dalton and the Bengals have exceeded expectations where that is concerned.
Young team, awesome talent
The Bengals have gotten major production from players with little NFL experience. When you watch the highlights on television, you see the name A.J. Green come up a lot and Green has come up big as a receiver for the Bengals. He leads the team with 41 receptions for 635 yards and 6 TD in 9 games. Expect Green to come up big in this important game.
25 year old wide receiver Jerome Simpson (34 receptions, 562 yards, and 2 TD) and 2nd year tight end Jermaine Gresham (32 receptions, 302 yards, 4 TD in 8 games) have been very reliable targets for Andy Dalton and the Browns defense will have to play tight defense if they want to stay in the wild card race.
If veteran running back Cedric Benson (634 yards rushing, 4 TD) can stay out of trouble off the field, the Bengals will be a really tough team for Cleveland to beat on Sunday afternoon.
Even though the Cleveland Browns are a sub .500 football team, they can present a threat on defense against Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and company. The Browns rank number 1 in passing defense (166. 5 yards per game) in the NFL. This will pose a problem for the Bengals and could be the Browns ace in the hole.
The problem is their rushing defense and the offense.
The Browns rank 29th in rushing yards allowed in the NFL at 139.3 yards per game. Stopping Cedric Benson will be a main priority for a weak rushing defense such as the Browns. This will be key to victory because the Browns aren't a team that's going to put up a lot of points on the scoreboard. They're coming off of a 14-10 victory over a weak Jacksonville Jaguars team behind an exceptional game from running back Chris Ogbonnaya.
Getting it done
Although the Cleveland Browns rank 23rd in passing and 29th in rushing, quarterback Colt McCoy has found a way to keep the Browns in consideration. They've needed to cover the production of 1000 yard injured runner Peyton Hillis.
2009 7th round draft pick Chris Ogbonnaya has proven to be a gem for the Browns. In 5 games, Ogbonnaya leads the team with 285 yards rushing and 1 TD. He's also caught 15 balls for 118 yards. Ogbonnaya came up huge against the Jaguars with 21 carries for 115 yards and 1 TD. Look for Ogbonnaya to carry that confidence over to this game and he'll need to as the Browns are paper thin at the running back position.
Receiving-wise, Cleveland doesn't have one key go to guy but they're much deeper at this position. Greg Little leads the Browns with 438 yards and Cleveland sports a list of 9 receivers with 100 or more yards this season. Whomever is open will be the target that McCoy will be looking for. Benjamin Watson is another one of his favorite targets.
Cleveland will have a tough time on the offensive end as the Bengals are 11th in passing defense and 3rd in rushing defense.
The Browns have very little to offer at the running back position but the strength of the Bengals defense will even make it worse.
Outcome of the game
Looking at NFL picks for this game, I'm going to sway my away from the side. Although Cleveland looks awful on paper, they're coming off of a victory and this is a must win for them. Saying that, they have little to offer offensively. The total for the game is rather low but I still like this game to go under.
Pick: Cincinnati/Cleveland Under 37.5