Cleveland Browns (0-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
Despite being just 2-4, the Bengals are favored by double digits this week. That’s even rarer than you’d think, as just 4 other teams since 1993 have been favored by double digits despite having a winning percentage of .333 or worse in week 6 or later. Teams are 3-4-1 ATS in that spot since 1989, so the Bengals’ record doesn’t neccessary mean they will fail to cover as favorites of this many points, but whether or not they deserve to be favored by 10 points here at home against the Browns is a major question.
There’s good argument to be made that they do, despite their record. The Browns are one of the worst teams in the league, arguably the worst with all of the injuries they’re dealing with right now. They lost talented left guard Joel Bitonio for the season last week and will be without top cornerback Joe Haden again this week. Meanwhile, top receiver Terrelle Pryor could miss this week’s game, meaning the Browns would be without both week 1 starting wide receivers (Corey Coleman has been out since week 2). The Browns enter this game 31st in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Jets, and they’re even less talented than the Jets are.
The Bengals, meanwhile, rank just 26th in first down percentage, but they’ve been significantly better than the Browns in that measure, especially given how tough their schedule has been. They’re 2-4 in large part because they’ve played Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, and Denver, all of whom are division leaders. It’s concerning that they’ve been unable to beat these teams, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that they could beat the Browns by double digits. However, I am going with the Browns, as they’re in a better spot than the Bengals.
The Bengals have a London game on deck and teams understandably struggle before playing an international game, going 8-19 ATS all-time. The Browns, meanwhile, are in their 2nd of two road games, which historically has been an advantage for teams. Teams are 132-100 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-68 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 222-236 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.87 points per game, as opposed to 322-448 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Browns, but they should be the right side.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 Cleveland Browns 20
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10