Bengals vs Browns Preview & Free Pick [September 17th 2020]

Cincinnati (0-1) at Cleveland (1-0)
When: Thursday, September 17th, 2020
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium,
Cleveland, Ohio
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NBC
Opening Odds: Cleveland -8/46

Overall No. 1 NFL Draft Pick Joe Burrow will get his first taste of not only a primetime game, but also in-state rivals the Cleveland Browns. Burrow was not terrible in his debut last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, completing 23-of-36 for 193 yards and an interception. However, his Bengals fell 16-13 to L.A. and now hit the road up to Cleveland for the first of two meetings this season. Burrow did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time in a game since his 2018 college season in a loss to Alabama. Across the field will be former No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, Baker Mayfield, who’s team was blown out by the Baltimore Ravens 38-6 in Week 1. Mayfield was 21-of-39 passing for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Ravens. There will be approximately 6,000 fans in attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifted the limit of 1,500 people at outdoor gatherings for the Browns’ home games against the Bengals and the Washington Football Team on Sept. 27. Cleveland gave up the final 28 points in the loss to Baltimore in the head coaching debut for Kevin Stefanski.

The Bengals had a chance to send their game against the Chargers to overtime on a 31-yard field goal, but Randy Bullock came up lame as he was approaching the ball and sent the kick wide to the right. Bullock said he felt a grab in his left calf during his kicking motion and was seen holding his right calf after the miss. Bullock practiced Tuesday so it looks like he may be available, but the Bengals signed Austin Seibert off waivers just in case. Seibert was cut by the Browns for missing one field goal and one extra point against the Ravens. Cleveland signed Cody Parkey on Monday to handle its kicking duties. The Browns have won three of the last four meetings after splitting a pair in 2019. Cleveland has won only three of the past 10 against Cincinnati and is 2-8 against the spread in that span. The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings, while the Over is 4-0-1 in the previous five.

Burrow has come confidence coming into this contest. Cincinnati was down by three when it took over at its own 18-yard line with 3:08 remaining. Burrow completed 8 of 11 passes — one was a spike to stop the clock – in that final drive for 70 yards. He also rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown in the game. Wide receiver AJ Green, who missed all of last year, had five catches for 51 yards. Cincinnati played without arguably its best defensive player in tackle Geno Atkins, who was out with a shoulder injury – his first missed game since 2013. The Bengals are 7-3-1 ATS in their past 11 Week 2 games. Cincinnati will be at Philadelphia next Sunday.

One thing the Browns must improve on is Mayfield’s failure to connect with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The All-Pro wideout was targeted 10 times, but had just three catches for 22 yards. The yardage output was the second lowest of Beckham’s seven-year career. It also marks the 11th straight game he’s gone without surpass 100 receiving yards. He dropped a pass that would have led to a first down with the team down 17-6 and driving. One thing they had going for them was a rushing attack that recorded 138 yards on 27 attempts. Kareem Hunt rushed for 72 yards while Nick Chubb had 60. The Browns were just 3-of-12 on converting third downs against the Ravens. The Browns are 3-1 against the spread in their last four home games and 7-2 ATS in its past nine Thursday games.

I really liked the way Burrow handled himself in the tough loss to the Chargers. He has the potential, I think, to be better than Mayfield. The Bengals play opponents tough, especially on the road, where they are 8-3 ATS as an underdog in their last 11 tries. They are also 9-2 ATS in the last 11 meetings with their in-state rivals. I’ll take the points with the rookie.

Pick: Bengals +6
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