Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals: CIN -7 (Pinnacle)

Markets

In the offseason Cantor Gaming opened the Bengals as touchdown favorites in this game and after Week 1 not much has changed.  According to Sports Insights, 72% of the bets are on the home favorite, and I have to agree with them.  I don't see this game coming off the 7.

Can the Bad get Worse?

My preseason power rankings will be due for an update soon, but one team I don't see going anywhere is the Cleveland Browns. I had them pegged as the 2nd worst team in the league and that might be generous.

The strange thing is Brandon Weeden might have been worse than people thought last Sunday.  Football Outsiders ranked him with the worst performance of the weekend.  They summed it up best when they said,
For now, we'll go with Weeden's first down numbers: 2-of-11 with an interception, plus two sacks and a bad snap, for no first downs, only one successful play (A 4-yard gain on first-and-5. Go nuts.), and -8 (that's minus-eight) total yards.
He didn't get a lot of help either. Greg Little continues to drop balls and Mohamed Massaquoi won't be scaring any secondaries anytime soon. Josh Gordon remains their best hope at an outside threat, but he's still unpolished and very raw.

Trent Richardson is the only bright spot of this offense, but he looked a bit rusty coming off his knee injury.  Will he be better this week?  Probably, but will it matter?

The cold truth is Weeden didn't earn the job and it showed in Week 1.  Certainly the Bengals D isn't on the same level as the Eagles, but they aren't as bad as the score indicated on Monday night either.

More Injury (Suspension) News

As if Cleveland needed more bad news, but Joe Haden's suspension was upheld and won't be in the lineup this week.  He's no doubt the glue that held that secondary together and the lone bright spot on this defense.With Phil Taylor already out, they'll need a lot more than a healthy Scott Fujita to keep offenses out of the end zone. Taking Haden's spot on the outside will be Dimitri Patterson.  He can be decent at times, but he's not Joe Haden and could be in for a long day if he's assigned A.J. Green.

For the Bengals, news is a lot brighter.  Bernard Scott and (more importantly) Carlos Dunlap returned to practice on Wednesday and there's optimism that they'll suit up on Sunday.

Who are the Bengals, ...Really?

It's no secret to anyone how polarizing the Bengals are.  They can't hang with the top teams and it's part of the reason why I included them in a teaser for Week 1. In hindsight, I should have just taken the Ravens straight, but no one gives a crap about shoulda, coulda, woulda.

What's relevant for Week 2 is the Bengals have taken care of the bad teams over the last year.  Their secondary has concerns, but the Browns are not about to exploit that.  Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis all showed some promising signs on Monday despite the final score.

Once they got behind a couple scores they had no choice but to become one-dimensional in a tough road spot.  It's safe to say that won't happen this week. There is even a glimmer of hope that Andrew Hawkins can take advantage of some favorable coverage opposite Green, but it's way too early to be sure. He'll have a great chance to produce for a 2nd straight week though.

Bottom Line

I thought about putting Cincy in a teaser and calling it a day, but I'm not about to let Week 1 results scare me off what I see as a clear mismatch on both sides of the ball.  The Browns lack play-makers and the ones they did have are on the sidelines. It must be a very demoralizing state of affairs, especially after losing what could have been a major Week 1 upset. Fade them until further notice.

NFL Pick: CIN -7.

The rest of my Week 2 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.