Browns vs. Bengals Expert Pick and Prediction – January 7, 2024
BROWNS VS. BENGALS EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 7, 2024 — It’s a weird situation in Cleveland: the Browns enter the last game of the season able to rest for the postseason. Cleveland can’t change its playoff destination no matter what: the Browns will be the AFC’s No. 5 seed and visit the AFC South champions next week in the wild card round.
Cincinnati also has nothing to play for. After playing for the past two AFC championships, the Bengals won’t be in the playoffs this year. But Jake Browning’s playing for his next job and gets one more chance to get some game tape for his next contract. That makes Cincinnati far more dangerous than Cleveland, as the Browns lack any real motivation.
Related: Nate’s Week 18 NFL Predictions
The one real bit of hesitation is how thoroughly Cleveland has dominated Cincinnati over the past five seasons. While the Bengals were taking control of the AFC North, they somehow forgot to figure out the Browns. Cleveland has won nine of the past 11 in this rivalry, and most of the games haven’t been close in either direction.
(11-5 SU, 11-5 ATS)
(8-8 SU, 6-8-2 ATS)
When: Sunday, January 7 at 1 p.m. EST
Where: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati
Public Bets: 53% on Cleveland
Public Money: 55% on Cincinnati
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of January 5th, 2024.
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati In-Season Trends
Cleveland’s defense does not travel in any way, shape or form. The Browns have played seven games away from Cuyahoga County this year, and the over has cashed in all seven of them. In nine home games, the Browns have given up an average of 13.9 points per game. On the road, not one Cleveland opponent has scored less than 20, and the average is 29.4 points per game.
The Browns also tend to match their game result to their spread result. Only twice — failing to cover in a win at Indianapolis and covering in a loss at Seattle — has Cleveland not matched its result on the spread to its result on the field.
Incredibly, the same is true for Cincinnati. The Bengals have played 16 games, and they have never once covered the spread without winning the game. Twice, they managed to push on the spread in a win, but in all eight defeats, they also failed to cover. Of course, if you can do the math, you also know that means that in 2023-24, Cincinnati has never failed to at least push when it wins the game.
Snow could present some issues for these teams. The bulk of the snow will come Saturday, but there’s still going to be a little coming down in Cincinnati on Sunday. Most likely, the field will still be fine, but there could be some early adjustments. Temperatures will be fine, they’ll sit around 40 degrees with minimal wind.
Don’t read too much into the teams’ meeting in Week 1, if you bother to check it out at all. Too much time has passed, and the teams we saw in Cleveland will not be close to what we see in Cincinnati.
Most importantly for the Browns, Joe Flacco and Myles Garrett will not play. Neither will Jerome Ford, who got most of Cleveland’s touches in the running game last week against the Jets. Kareem Hunt might get most of the carries, or the Browns might even go as far as turning to Pierre Strong. Jeff Driskel will have pass opportunities against Cincinnati’s weak pass defense, but with no Amari Cooper, it’s doubtful he can take advantage.
With Ja’Marr Chase playing, look for the Bengals to try to throw. Joe Mixon is likely not playing because of illness, and Cleveland shut down the Cincinnati ground game the first time anyway. Chase should be anxious to put on a show in the final game of the year.
If you’re picking Cleveland, you’re backing them to win outright given how both teams have treated the moneyline this year. And I’m not convinced Cleveland does much of anything in this game. In fact, the presence of the Browns’ backups has me a little spooked about the Over, even though that’s been the safest bet with Cleveland road games.
Instead, I’m going with the other half of what hits in Cleveland road games: home team total over. Browning shouldn’t have an issue moving the ball on the Browns’ reserves, and the Bengals shouldn’t be holding back here. Throw in that four of the past five Battles of Ohio have been decided by 10 or more, and this looks straightforward.
Bengals TTO 22.5