The Battle of Ohio is suddenly interesting again. The Cincinnati Bengals have opened as 6-point home favorites on the Week 10 NFL odds board, but the Cleveland Browns have won four of their last five games.
Jason’s record after Week 8: 24-33 ATS, 9-12-1 Totals
Profit: minus-29.93 units
Something very strange is happening in the AFC North: All four teams have winning records. The Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1 SU, 4-3-1 ATS) are in first place, and the Cleveland Browns (5-3 SU, 4-2-2 ATS) are one of three teams tied for second – or last, depending on your point of view. Which makes this week’s episode of Thursday Night Football very special indeed. The Bengals have opened with NFL odds of –6, and they’ll try to beat Cleveland for the sixth straight time at home.
This is a different Browns team, though. Despite an owner who’s run afoul of the law and a front office that’s had five GM changes and four different head coaches in the past six years, the Browns have been winning football games. The question is, will anyone add Cleveland to their NFL picks this week? We’ll see what the consensus reports have to say once enough data comes in.
At Least They Beat Tampa
It’ll be interesting enough to see the Browns playing in prime time, even if it’s on a Thursday (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN). They gained some positive attention this offseason when they drafted hotshot college quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round, but Brian Hoyer was given the No. 1 job right from the get-go, and interest in the Browns dimmed somewhat. They were No. 23 on the public money charts as we went to press, despite their success thus far against the football odds.
But that’s covering the entire 2014 season up to this point. If you look at just the past 30 days, Cleveland moves all the way up to No. 4 on the list, and no wonder: The Browns have won four of their last five games, albeit at 2-2-1 ATS. They weren’t able to bag the cash in Sunday’s 22-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7 away), the worst team in the NFL according to both DVOA and SRS.
That has to be disconcerting to Cleveland supporters. Their team has played an incredibly soft schedule since coming off the bye in Week 4. The Browns beat the Tennessee Titans 29-28 in Week 5, but only earned a push as 1-point road dogs. They also lost outright to the then-winless Jacksonville Jaguars (+4 at home) in Week 7, before finally staving off the chalk monsters at sportsbooks like 5Dimes in Week 8 with a 23-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders (+6.5 away). Not the stuff of legends.
Hi in the Middle, Round at Both Ends
The Bengals, meanwhile, are trying to get back on the good foot after starting the 2014 campaign at 3-0 SU and ATS. They’ve played a tougher schedule than Cleveland, but this past Sunday, they got to host the Jaguars – and had to settle for a push in a 33-23 victory. That leaves Cincinnati at 2-2-1 SU and 1-3-1 ATS since taking the same bye week as the Browns.
Not that a lot of people follow the Bengals anyway – this is your typical Rust Belt regional market, after all – but they’re risking losing the hearts and minds of Ohioans. Cincinnati is No. 19 for the season on the public money charts and No. 11 over the past 30 days, losing market share to their in-state rivals.
That could all change after this week’s results. Although the Bengals didn’t cash in against Jacksonville, they did get an eye-opening 154 yards and two touchdowns from RB Jeremy Hill, who was filling in for the injured Giovani Bernard. Let’s see how the injury reports shake out in advance of Thursday’s game before we make our NFL picks on the spread and against the posted total of 43.5 points.