Thursday Night Football is serving up a real gridiron battle as the 7-0 Cincinnati Bengals take on the 2-6 division rival Cleveland Browns. It’s been the same old Browns this season, but the Bengals have been a different story, looking like a true contender in the AFC this year. In this TNF battle, the point spread is favoring Cincinnati at -11.
Thursday Night Football: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Point Spread: Bengals -11 Over/under: 45.5 Date: Thursday, November 5, 8:25pm ET Location:Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
UPDATE: Johnny Manziel will start at quarterback, the team announced Wednesday morning.
Another week, another game where starting quarterback Josh McCown’s playing status is up in the air. McCown has battled injuries all season long, but has been efficient when able to suit up. While the +11 underdog Cleveland team is truly lacking in star power throughout the roster, they’ll be able to spread the ball around against a Cincinnati pass defense that is giving up 258 yards through the air. The bigger issue will be attempting to get their less than stellar running game going against the Bengals stout front seven. Averaging just 84 yards per game, they risk becoming one-dimensional.
The Browns defense will have their hands full against the Bengals who are averaging over 28 points per game. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have been lighting up defenses all season, with four of Dalton’s 15 touchdown passes landing in Green’s hands. The difficulty for Cleveland will be in stopping the balanced attack. If they manage to bottle up the passing game, they’ll have to account for Cincinnati’s effective running back duo consisting of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. It will take a big performance by both the Browns’ pass rush and secondary to get the job done.
With 20 sacks on the season, the Bengals could make the outing miserable for the physically ailing McCown. The fastest way to shut Cleveland down is by pressuring the quarterback. With a spotty secondary, the Bengals need to force the Browns to make quick decisions and limit McCown’s ability to see beyond his first read. With Cleveland struggling to produce a running game, making it hard to move the ball in obvious passing situations is priority number one for Cincinnati.
The -11 favorite Bengals are finding ways to win close games with steady, mistake-free games from Dalton, but this one might not need perfect quarterback play for another victory. Cincinnati’s offense is deep and very talented at the skill positions. With Cleveland’s young stars on defense playing poorly, Green and tight end Tyler Eifert could each have a big game. With so many options on offense facing a bad Browns team, the Bengals should have no problem keeping balanced and scoring plenty.
Thursday Night Football Prediction
Simply put, the Browns are out-matched against the Bengals. To make matters worse, they’ll be on the road, and on national television with a starting quarterback that may or may not play due to injury. Thursday Night Football could turn into yet another chapter for the Factory of Sadness that is Cleveland football.