Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1) at Washington Football Team (2-7)
Neither of these teams have impressive records, but Washington has been clearly the better of these two teams this season. Washington has the slightly better point differential at -38 vs. -46, but the difference is more pronounced than that. Washington has faced a much tougher schedule and has struggled more in metrics that are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and could improve going forward, like turnover margin (-3 vs. -7, in large part due to Washington’s league worst 32.14% fumble recovery rate) and net field goal percentage (+9.53% vs -23.85%).
In terms of first down rate differential, which minimizes the impact of outlier plays that are inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, Washington has a massive edge at +1.64% vs. -3.65%. The Bengals have played a lot of close games, with four of their six losses coming by one score or less, but they are worse than their box scores suggest, as their close losses to the Colts and the Browns came in games in which the Bengals lost the first down rate battle by 8.20% and 5.56% respectively. The Bengals lost to the Colts despite winning the turnover battle and they needed to go 5 for 5 on 4th down and get a last second garbage time touchdown to cut it to a single score against the Browns.
Offense is the more consistent side of the ball and, as a result, it’s the more important side of the ball for projections and the Bengals have the edge on that side of the ball, with Washington being led by their defense, but it’s a slight edge for Cincinnati, as they rank 23rd in first down rate over expected at -1.17%, while Washington ranks -2.34% at 27th, and that slight edge may be made up for by the fact that, with Alex Smith resembling his old form at quarterback, Washington has their most competent quarterback under center right now, for his 3rd start of the season.
Washington also has a massive edge on defense, ranking 4th in first down rate allowed over expected at -3.98%, while the Bengals rank 28th at +2.49%, which can’t be ignored, even if defense tends to be inconsistent week-to-week and even if Washington has some injuries on that side of the ball. Washington holds the slight edge in my roster rankings as well and, even without any fans in the stadium, they should be favored by at least a field goal in this home game against the Bengals, if not more. Given that, we’re getting decent line value with Washington as mere 1-point favorites. This isn’t a big play, but Washington is worth a bet this week.
Washington Football Team 17 Cincinnati Bengals 13
Pick against the spread: Washington -1