Bengals vs Browns Predictions: A Case for Both Sides on Monday Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Mixon (left) and Kareem Hunt.
We have a difficult decision on Monday Night Football tonight.
First, there are the Bengals, who have a woeful record in primetime, as covered here by Chris Raybon, and have generally underwhelmed this season. Then, there are the Browns, who have lost four straight games and are playing with a backup quarterback.
Tough to make a decision with such delicious options!
Bengals vs. Browns Picks
Brandon Anderson: The Bengals are rolling and just played their best game of the season, demolishing a quality Falcons team that’s pretty similar to these Browns. Both teams feature strong run games and a competent passing attack that doesn’t exactly put the fear of God into opponents, and neither can stop a nosebleed.
Cincinnati threw everyone off its scent with an 0-2 start, but rank second in DVOA since. The offense ranks second in EPA and seems to have found itself in heavy shotgun, going pass-heavy and letting Joe Burrow cook.
The Browns should be able to run some with D.J. Reader out, but they can’t win a shootout or keep up with a Bengals offense in top gear.
Cleveland’s defense ranks 30th in EPA over the last month and 28th in success rate; the Browns are also last in DVOA defensively at home.
Bengals -3.5 | Browns +3.5
Cleveland has won seven of eight in this rivalry, but Kevin Stefanski is still an ugly 3-11 ATS (21%) in divisional games. Monday night road favorites of 3-to-7 points are 45-32 ATS (58%).
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: Cincinnati is without Ja’Marr Chase.
This makes me like, not love, Cincinnati, but I definitely wouldn’t switch my pick to Cleveland. Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Burrow should be more than enough against a subpar Browns defense.
The concern is not Chase. It’s what Zac Taylor might do to the offense without him. The Bengals thrive when they let Burrow cook and struggle when they go run heavy. As long as Taylor doesn’t decide this is a Joe Mixon game, Cincy should roll.
Still, I’m going to back the better team to cover and get a win on Monday Night Football.
John LanFranca: I love the idea of fading Taylor if he turns back into a more conservative play-caller without Chase. The Bengals are the 30th-ranked first-down rushing attack according to DVOA, and they have the least explosive running game in football (only 7.3% of rushes have gained 10+ yards).
Coincidentally the Browns are coming off their best defensive performance of the season, and they showed well in their one chance to face Burrow in 2021, limiting him to 282 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. I expect Burrow to hold the ball for a count longer without Chase, which does not bode well for his chances of avoiding pressure.
This offense will not look the same as it did in the prior two weeks when it used shotgun on greater than 85% of plays to take advantage of the 22nd- and 32nd-ranked DVOA pass defenses.
I’d play the Browns down to +3.