The battle of Ohio might turn out to be one of the least watched games in Week 2, but as long as a game has a point spread, there will be some interest. Let's take a closer look at why the home town Bengals will walk away with a win, and a cover.
In the offseason the Bengals opened as touchdown favorites in this game and after Week 1 not much has changed. As it stands now, about 72 percent of the bets are on the home favorite and I have to agree with them. There has been very little line movement throughout the week, but it did move to 6.5 for a couple of hours midweek before action quickly pushed it back to seven (odds from SBRforum).
Can the Bad Get Worse?
There are a number of changes I expect to make in my power rankings over the next couple weeks, but one team I don't see going anywhere is the Cleveland Browns. I had them pegged as the second worst team in the league and that might be generous.
The strange thing is Brandon Weeden might have been even worse than people thought last Sunday. Football Outsiders ranked him with the worst performance of the weekend. They summed it up best when they said,
For now, we'll go with Weeden's first down numbers: 2-of-11 with an interception, plus two sacks and a bad snap, for no first downs, only one successful play (A 4-yard gain on first-and-5. Go nuts.), and -8 (that's minus-eight) total yards.
He didn't get a lot of help either. Greg Little continues to drop balls and Mohamed Massaquoi won't be scaring any secondaries anytime soon. Josh Gordon remains their best hope at an outside threat, but he's still unpolished and very raw.
Trent Richardson is the only bright spot of this offense, but he looked a bit rusty coming off his knee injury. Will he be better this week? Probably, but will it matter?
The cold truth is Weeden didn't earn the job and it showed in Week 1. Certainly the Bengals defense isn't on the same level as the Eagles, but they aren't as bad as the score indicated on Monday night either.
More Injury (and Suspension) News
As if Cleveland needed more bad news, but Joe Haden's suspension was upheld and he won't be in the lineup this week. He's no doubt the glue that held that secondary together and the lone bright spot on this defense.
With Phil Taylor already out, they'll need a lot more than a healthy Scott Fujita to keep offenses out of the end zone. Taking Haden's spot on the outside will be Dimitri Patterson. He can be decent at times, but he's not Joe Haden and could be in for a long day if he's assigned A.J. Green.
For the Bengals, news is a lot brighter. Bernard Scott and (more importantly) Carlos Dunlap returned to practice on Wednesday and there's optimism that they'll suit up on Sunday. Even if they only play limited snaps, it will no doubt provide a boost for a team licking its wounds from Monday night.
Who Are the Bengals...Really?
It's no secret to anyone how polarizing the Bengals are. They simply can't hang with the top teams. Since the beginning of last season, they are 0-9 straight up against playoff teams and 1-7-1 against the spread. On the flip side, the Bengals record vs. non-playoff teams is 9-0 straight up and 7-1-1 against the spread.
Going into their matchup with the Browns, there's no question that their secondary has concerns. Thankfully, the Browns are not about to exploit that anytime soon.
Additionally, Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all showed some promising signs on Monday despite the final score. Once they got behind a couple scores they had no choice but to become one-dimensional in a tough road spot. It's safe to say that won't happen this week.
There is even a glimmer of hope that Andrew Hawkins can take advantage of some favorable coverage opposite Green, but it's way too early to be sure. He'll have a great chance to produce for a second straight week though.
I thought about putting Cincy in a teaser and calling it a day, but I'm not about to let Week 1 results scare me off what I see as a clear mismatch on both sides of the ball. The Browns lack playmakers and the ones they did have are on the sidelines. It must be a very demoralizing state of affairs, especially after losing what could have been a major Week 1 upset. Fade the Browns until further notice.
NFL Pick: CIN -7.