Cleveland Browns (5-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
This game is a tough call, with both teams being better than their records. The Bengals have four losses, but you can still argue they are one of the best teams in the league, with two of those losses coming in the first two weeks of the season and three of their losses coming by three points or fewer, as opposed to four wins by 12 points or more, giving them a point differential of +57 which ranks 6th in the NFL. They also rank 7th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 4.5 points above average, and they are getting healthy, with key players in running back Joe Mixon, defensive tackle DJ Reader, and wide receiver JaMarr Chase all expected to play this week after time earlier this season, leading to them being 6.5 points above average in my roster rankings.
The Browns, meanwhile, are the only team to beat the Bengals by more than three points this season, doing so by 19 points in Cleveland back in week 8, and, like the Bengals, most of their losses have been very close, with four of seven coming by three points or fewer. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Browns rank 10th, about 1.5 points above average, and they got franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson back from suspension last week, which should prove to be a significant upgrade in the long-term.
I am going with the Bengals in this game for pick ‘em purposes, as 5.5-point home favorites, but only because Watson might still not be at his best in just his second game out, while the Browns defense continues to lose key players due to injury, with Sione Takitaki now out, meaning they’re without their top-3 linebackers from what was once a very talented group. Even with that taken into account though, this is one of the toughest games of the week from an against the spread perspective and is one of my lowest confidence picks. In fact, while I would take the Bengals at 5.5, I might switch to the Browns if the line moved to 6, that’s how close this decision is for me.
Cincinnati Bengals 33 Cleveland Browns 27
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -5.5