Bet Home Team Bengals ATS vs. Browns for Thursday's NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 2:00 PM UTC

Is it safe to bet on the Cincinnati Bengals again? They’ve won back-to-back games at home, and the NFL odds are still in their favor when the Bengals welcome the Cleveland Browns for a crucial AFC North tilt.

Jason’s record after Week 9: 26-36 ATS, 10-14-1 Totals

Profit: minus-34.81 units

Some NFL picks are easier than others. The Cincinnati Bengals are favored by six points at home for Thursday night’s game (8:25 p.m. ET, NLFN) against the Cleveland Browns, holding firm from the open all the way to press time with 60-65 percent consensus. There’s some room in there for the public to come in and bet the Browns if they want – which they have been lately. It’s a good line, and thorough.

So here we are again with another NFL betting conundrum in a season of conundra: Do we take the superior team on paper in the Bengals, or do we take the somewhat hotter Browns team and the points? This is the kind of dilemma our “Five Stars” system was supposed to help solve. Supposed to. It’s obviously been a rough season here at the ranch, and the football odds for this game in particular seem designed to befuddle bettors.


Let’s start with one of the most important considerations for handicappers in any team sport: depth. Both of our Ohio-based teams are dealing with key injuries going into Week 10; Cincinnati has the longer list of walking wounded on both sides of the ball, but Cleveland might have the most important injury in center Alex Mack, who broke his leg in Week 6 and is out for the season. Cleveland is 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS since then. We’re giving the edge to the Bengals in this category, but there are a number of players listed as “questionable” who could move the needle in either direction.

Then you’ve got the overlooked aspects of football on defense and special teams. Again, we have the Bengals ahead based on their superior DVOA numbers at Football Outsiders, but Pro Football Outsiders has Cleveland with a plus-0.4 in defensive SRS, ahead of Cincinnati at minus-0.1. Interesting. Each team has 10 picks and three fumble recoveries, by the way. We’ll take our chances with Cincinnati’s special teams, especially with their league-best punting (courtesy of Kevin Huber) against Cleveland’s poor punt returning.


Cold Comfort for Change
It only gets more difficult after that. When Mike Pettine was hired as Cleveland’s coach in January, he was expected to be just another sacrificial lamb. But Pettine has rather quietly gone about restoring the Browns, deferring when needed to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil. Meanwhile, Marvin Lewis is in his 12th season with the Bengals, so he’s a survivor, but ESPN had Lewis polled as the No. 15-ranked coach in the NFL among “league insiders” going into the new season. We’ll call it a wash.

We’ve already talked about the relative popularity of both teams in the NFL betting market, and although Cleveland has a bit of an edge in public money over the past 30 days, Cincinnati is ahead on the season. There’s really not much to choose from anyway between these two Rust Belt neighbors. We figure the Browns’ best attribute in this matchup, from a betting standpoint, is the fact that you can get them at +7 with reasonable juice on our Week 10 NFL odds board.

In the end, we’ve got another small bet on the Bengals, which seems just about right. Our expanded consensus figures show Cincinnati pulling in nearly 75 percent of the action, with an average bet size of $104 compared to $53 for Cleveland. Seeing numbers like that always makes us feel more comfortable with our NFL picks. We’ll take all the comfort we can get at this point.

The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: CIN
Defense/Special Teams: CIN
Coaching: EVEN
Market Bias: EVEN
Betting Line Value: CLE

Verdict: 1-star pick on CIN

Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Bengals –6.5 (+106) at Matchbook

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