Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)
The Browns are just 2-5, but they aren’t getting blown out, with all but one of their losses coming by a field goal or less. Their point differential is -18, which is better than their record would suggest, and they are even better in schedule adjusted efficiency, ranking 16th, just slightly above average. Despite that, they are underdogs of a full field goal at home. However, they might deserve to be, for a couple reasons. For one, the Browns are missing several key players due to injury, most notably guard Wyatt Teller, arguably their most important offensive player, as well as top cornerback Denzel Ward and talented starting tight end David Njoku, while their top linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is questionable after not practicing all week.
On top of that, the Browns are facing the Bengals, who seem like one of the better teams in the league, despite their record. Like most of the Browns’ losses, all of the Bengals’ losses were close games that they easily could have won, all decided by three points or fewer, as opposed to three of their four wins coming by double digits. Their +41 point differential is 4th best in the NFL and in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they rank 4th, about 5 points above average and above the Browns.
The Bengals have some injury concerns as well, most notably the absence of stud wide receiver JaMarr Chase, but they have enough depth at that position to compensate and they are otherwise relatively healthy, leading to them having a four point edge over the Browns in my roster rankings. That still suggests that we’re getting some line value with the Browns, but it’s not enough for the Browns to be worth betting. That could change if Owusu-Koramoah ends up playing and the line stays at a full field goal, but that seems unlikely and, even in that case, I might keep this as a low confidence pick. I will update this pick if I end up betting on the Browns, who should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes either way.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 Cleveland Browns 23
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3