NFL Picks: Browns vs. Bengals

Doug Upstone

Friday, November 15, 2013 8:39 PM GMT

Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 8:39 PM GMT

This weekend features a fierce AFC North rivalry.  Who will you choose as your NFL pick from this exciting matchup?

It’s Round 2 in the battle of Ohio and both teams have a great deal at stake. Everyone making sports picks is aware Cincinnati has lost two in row and a third consecutive defeat brings everyone in the AFC North into the division race. By the end of Sunday, with a victory this week and next, Cleveland could be tied for the division lead. What would have been the NFL odds on that almost three-quarters into the season? 

Cleveland Could Make A Statement

After three straight losses to end October, the Browns were looking like, the Browns. But the NFL is a week to week league and the fortunes of any team can change, well, in one week.
 

With Cleveland’s victory over Baltimore before their bye week and fueled by a couple of Bengals setbacks, all of the sudden in the midst of a trio of division matchups, the Browns are at least in position to control their own destiny.

The word has been out among NFL football handicappers on the Cleveland defense for awhile, presently ranked No. 5 in total defense and they really make the opposition work, being the best in yards per play at 4.7.

However, if Cleveland is going to surpass expectations, it will fall on the shoulders of journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell.
 

We will never know if Campbell might have enjoyed more success in the NFL had he not had five different offensive coordinators in his first five seasons. What we can judge is the Cleveland quarterback is coming into this game off two games with a total of five touchdowns and no interceptions, something he’s never accomplished before.

Brown’s fans hope Campbell is like the soup, hmm, hmm good on Sunday.

Like it not Cincy’s Success Tied to Quarterback

Ask anyone making NFL picks for a living or those who follow the league very closely who the Top 10 quarterbacks in the league are and Andy Dalton might get a mention for the last seat at the table. He most likely will be in the 11-16 range. Nevertheless, his quality of play will be in direct correlation to Cincinnati’s success.

While I admit to not being a big fan of quarterback ratings, during the Bengals four-game winning streak, Dalton had an average QB rating of 112.1, which includes surpassing the century mark the last three games. In Cincinnati’s past two defeats, his ratings have been 55.5 and 55.2 respectively, less than half of his prior four outings.

The success or failure of coach Marvin Lewis’ squad is tied to their quarterback. In the teams four losses, they have committed 12 turnovers and all but one is directly attributed to Dalton.

"We haven't played great the last two weeks offensively. The four or five weeks before that we played very well," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "Our numbers are up yards-wise this year. We're seventh or eighth in the league in the NFL. Our turnovers are up for whatever reason and that's the one thing that we really have to address is turnovers."

Cincinnati is still the team to beat in the division and could move as high as a three-seed in the AFC, but only if the former TCU product improves and becomes consistent.

NFL Betting Odds and Matchup Numbers

Sportsbooks opened Cincinnati as 6.5-point favorites, but with their recent shaky play and the fact they are 13-23 ATS at home after a road loss, they have dropped to -5.5. The Bengals are 11-7 and 7-10-1 ATS at home the past two decades versus their division partners.

The total has been relatively stable, dropping slightly from 42 to 41.5 and I find Cincy is 7-0 UNDER after outgaining the opposition by 100 or more total yards in two consecutive games.

[gameodds]16/227022/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Cleveland covers and possibly wins by…

Doing what Campbell has been successful at, getting the ball out quickly. This has made wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little more dangerous. The Browns running game is below average, yet if they can average 3.7 to 4.0 yards a carry, this can help move the chains.

The Browns have 11 sacks the past two games and if they can unsettle Dalton early, they can start to win the field position battle like they did in the 17-6 win against the Bengals at home back in September. If they can limit big plays from A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard, they will have a chance for the sweep, and possibly grabbing the fans attention to make them future NFL picks for division matchups.

Cincinnati wins and covers by…

Having Dalton get into a rhythm with the short passing game. Maybe the Bengals tight ends are not as good as I believe, but if they spent two No.1 picks on Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert who combined are averaging 6.3 catches per contest. With this tandem, it should be closer to 10 a game which would help Dalton.

Cincinnati is seventh in sacks and Campbell is not an elusive target. Once Campbell is pressured out of the pocket, he will run close to 80 percent of the time and not look downfield. The Bengals should swarm him and see if he goes back to old ways of throwing the ball up for grabs.

Final Outcome

The NFL odds would suggest the underdog is the wiser play, but I think Cincinnati is more desperate and wins by 13.  

NFL Football Free Pick- Cincinnati -5.5

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