Cincinnati Bengals Sharpen Claws against Cleveland Browns
Written by Greg Smith – 2011-12 NFL Prediction Record (12-3)
The NFL playoff race continues to heat up as the Cleveland Browns prepare to face the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. Both teams have had some struggles this year, as the Browns record is currently 4-6 with only one win as the visitors and the Bengals have lost their last two games to the Ravens and Steelers. Looking at the NFL power rankings the Bengals have dropped from 11th position to 13th while the Browns have improved from 28th to 24th. Certainly the difference in the Bengals record (6-4) and the Browns, as well as numerous statistical rankings suggest there is an opportunity for NFL bettors this weekend but let’s go further into this matchup to be confident about our wagers.
As far as statistical rankings, we can see some explanations for the Browns struggles this season and some of the challenges they will face against the Bengals. The Browns offence is currently ranked 29th in total yards per game, 23rd in total pass yards per game, 29th in rushing yards per game and 28th in total points scored per game. Although there is some enthusiasm in Cleveland due to QB Colt McCoy’s recent increase in passing completion to 72.5% from his 57.4% in his first eight games, we need to point out that this came against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams. Struggling teams such as these are bound to increase a quarterback’s numbers and should be taken with a handful of caution. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland is having a more respectable year statistically, currently ranking 5th in limiting total opposition yards per game, 1st in opponent pass yards per game, 7th in total opponent points per game although they rank 29th in opponent rushing yards per game. Certainly the defence is doing a better job than the offence but the Browns shabby run stop and their poor offence leaves some good possibilities for the Bengals. In regards to injuries, the Browns currently list two vital players as inactive for Sunday (running back Peyton Hillis and safety TJ Ward) while backup running back Montario Hardesty and fullback Owen Marecic are questionable and QB McCoy is dealing with a shoulder injury. These injuries leave the Browns lacking a big play receiver and a dependable running back, a void on defence and a less than healthy quarterback.
Looking at the Cincinnati Bengals side of this matchup, although the win is all that really matters in terms of making the playoffs, it speaks volumes that they went toe to toe with two of the toughest teams in the league. Most NFL bettors would agree that if you can hang in against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers you are doing relatively well in the NFL. It is also impressive that the Bengals were able to adjust their offence and defence to the injuries of cornerback Leon Hall and wide receiver AJ Green. Speaking to statistics the Bengals offence surpasses that of the Browns as they rank 18th in total yards per game, 19th in rushing yards per game, 17th in pass yards per game and 12th in total points scored per game. Andy Dalton has put up respectable numbers this year and currently stands at a 79.6 passer rating. His TD to INT ratio has fallen recently, but the opportunistic Steelers and Ravens have a good deal to do with those numbers. Not to be outdone, the Bengals defence is currently 6th in limiting opponent yards per game, 11thin pass yards per game, 3rd in opponent rushing yards and 8th in limiting opponent total yards per game. While wide receiver AJ Green remains questionable for Sunday and cornerback Leon Hall is out for the season, since the Bengals were able to adjust to these losses it shouldn’t be a severe test against the Browns. Indeed, after playing two of the toughest teams in the NFL, the Bengals will be looking to make a statement against the Browns and re-establishing themselves amongst the top of the toughest division in the league.
Prediction: Take the Cincinnati Bengals -7 against the Cleveland Browns (5Dimes.com)
Check out all of Greg’s plays from this season on the NFL predictions page!