It's a mismatch Thursday night of Week 9 as 2-6 Cleveland visits 7-0 Cincinnati, but the game is a bit more interesting with Johnny Manziel starting. Let's examine some Browns NFL player props.
Cleveland hasn't finished with a winning record since 2007 and clearly isn't going to again this season. It's rather doubtful that Coach Mike Pettine returns next season -- he's one of the favorites on NFL odds to be next coach fired -- and you can say the same about General Manager Ray Farmer, who embarrassed the organization when he was suspended the first four games of this season for texting to his coaching staff during games in 2014. That's an obvious no-no. Farmer addressed his job security this week and said he wasn't worried about it. What's he supposed to say? A GM is largely judged on his draft picks and Farmer's three biggest ones, Manziel, cornerback Justin Gilbert and offensive lineman Cameron Erving, have been flops thus far. Erving, the 19th overall pick this year, has played only 25 snaps all season. Gilbert, who was the No. 8 overall pick last year, has played all of nine snaps. He was flagged with some character problems coming out of college like Manziel. Frankly, what Manziel does the rest of this season likely determines the futures of Pettine and Farmer.
I'm curious how interested the Browns players are in giving full effort going forward. After all, word got out on Tuesday that the team nearly traded probably its best player, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, to Denver for two 2016 draft picks. The two sides couldn't complete the deal before the trade deadline.
Johnny Manziel 'Over/Under' 17.5 Completions, 209.5 Passing Yards, 1.5 TDs, 1 INT
Johnny Manziel O/U 22.5 Rushing Yards
The only reason Manziel is starting this game is that Josh McCown, who has been pretty good at times this season, has a painful rib injury. With the quick turnaround, there was just no way for him to get in there. So Manziel makes his fourth career start and second this year. He led Cleveland to one of its two victories, 28-14 over visiting Tennessee in Week 2 when McCown was injured. Manziel showed some Johnny Football signs in that one, completing 8-for-15 for 172 yards and touchdown passes of 60 and 50 yards to Travis Benjamin. But clearly the Titans are one of the NFL's worst teams this season, maybe the worst. The only other game Manziel was able to start and finish was in Week 15 last season at home against these Bengals. Manziel looked like a JV quarterback in that one in completing 10-for-18 for 80 yards with two picks. He was sacked three times and rushed for only 13 yards on eight carries. Cleveland had five first downs all game and 107 total yards. Manziel won't have two of the team's top receivers for this one in Andrew Hawkins (20 catches, 207 yards, two TDs) and Brian Hartline (16 catches, 182 yards, one TD) due to concussions. Cincinnati is No. 18 against the pass. The Bengals have allowed nine TD passes and picked off eight.
NFL Free Picks: Presumably the Browns will have a very conservative game plan for Manziel. Go 'UNDER' all except rushing yards (interceptions likely a push). By the way, the Cleveland running back situation is so sad that Bovada doesn't even give a rushing prop for a Browns back.
Travis Benjamin O/U 4.5 Receptions, 55.5 Receiving Yards
Duke Johnson O/U 3.5 Receptions 32.5 Receiving Yards
Benjamin has become the Browns' No. 1 receiver, which isn't saying much, with 38 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns. The speedster is definitely a big-play guy with eight catches over 20 yards. He also had that big game with Manziel as the quarterback in Week 2 against the Titans. With Hawkins and Hartline sidelined, Benjamin should see more targets but he also will be the focus of the Cincinnati secondary. Meanwhile, the Browns coaches have said they want to get Johnson more involved in the offense. He hasn't done much as a rusher yet but does have 33 catches for 331 yards and a TD receiving. Johnson had two catches for 68 yards last week against Arizona in the first half but for some reason only got one touch in the second half: a 3-yard carry.
NFL Free Picks: 'OVER' both for Johnson, 'UNDER' receptions for Benjamin but I'll go 'OVER' the yards as they Browns will try a long one or two with him.