Zylbert’s NFL Over/Unders: Capitalizing on A.J. Green’s Probable Absence
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton
Betting odds: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
- Over/Under: 46.5
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
>> All odds as of Saturday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets
Zylbert’s 2018 NFL Over/Under Betting Record: 6-4-2 +1.5 units
Last Week’s Result: Vikings-Bears Under 45 (Push)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit
This is one of my favorite over/unders of the season. While it may not be flashy, there’s a lot to uncork in the first meeting between the Browns and Bengals this season.
Cincinnati is fighting for its playoff life after dropping two straight and four of its last five. Meanwhile, this AFC North clash will be the biggest game left for Cleveland. Interim head coach Gregg Williams even said as much, matter-of-factly stating, “The most important game of the final six is this week.”
There’s a reason for that, as the Browns are trying to avoid entering the NFL record books in a dubious manner. They’ve lost 25 straight games away from home, and one more would tie them with the Detroit Lions (2007-10) for the longest road losing streak in history.
I’m confident their underrated defense will show up with a spirited effort to keep the Bengals offense at bay. Talented safety Damarious Randall is pretty confident in that also, saying a few days ago: “If they don’t have A.J. [Green], they’re getting their ass beat.”
That’s one of the main keys to nailing this under, as Cincinnati’s star wideout will most likely remain sidelined. He’s been tabbed doubtful for the contest, but considering he hasn’t practiced all week, it looks like a certainty that Green will be sitting.
The receiver’s absence will be bad news for quarterback Andy Dalton, who has historically struggled without his No. 1 receiver. Just look at the past couple of games — Green’s only missed action of the season. Dalton barely topped 350 yards combined in the two outings, as the Bengals tallied just 35 points.
Dalton also struggled in the final month-and-change of 2016 with Green on the sidelines. In the last seven games of that year (including the one he got injured in, since he departed in the beginning), the Red Rifler averaged a measly 236 passing yards per game while leading an offense that put up 19.7 points each week within that span.
Interestingly, Cleveland is giving up the third-most passing yards on a per-game basis, but the Browns also registered the NFL’s third-lowest opposing passer rating (84.3), a strong indicator that they’ve performed better than the amount of yards they surrender.
The Browns defense ranks third in the league with 13 interceptions. Of note, Dalton has thrown 10 picks, which is tied for the fourth-most among all starting quarterbacks.
But it won’t just be Cincinnati’s man under center who could be facing a tough day ahead. Look for Dalton’s counterpart, No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, to go through a sluggish afternoon, as well.
Mayfield is coming off a bye week, which hasn’t yielded the most positive results for rookie starting quarterbacks.
In fact, going back the last 10 years (including this one), rookie starting quarterbacks following a bye (not including Lamar Jackson last week, as he did not start previously) have collectively managed only 208 yards per game on 6.73 yards per attempt, which would rank outside the top-30 this season among qualified quarterbacks.
Additionally, barely one-third of rookie starters in this spot (12 of 31) tossed more than one touchdown pass. Overall, they’ve also churned out a pedestrian 80.2 passer rating, according to CSGNetwork.com’s passer rating calculator.
With a line as high as 47, you’re probably going to need considerably more than a performance like those from the former Oklahoma Sooner for the over to hit.
Mayfield has looked better than anyone could have expected — especially after he was rushed into the fray once Tyrod Taylor got the hook — but the bye week may bring about a little rust, which is all it can take to throw a rookie off his rhythm.
Cincinnati’s biggest vulnerability on defense comes on third downs. Opponents are converting on a whopping 55.5% of their opportunities, easily the worst mark in football. However, the Browns offense is fourth-worst in this department, moving the chains only 32.9% of the time on third down.
Perhaps as important as anything, recently-fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson will be on the sidelines versus his old team. With his deep knowledge of Cleveland’s schemes and personnel, I think this will do more good than bad in regards to an under wager.
Yes, the Bengals are 7-3 toward the over — which is actually the best record for any AFC team — but as illustrated, it’s a whole different ballgame (pun intended?) for Dalton when Green isn’t active.
As a result, you’re going to want to jump on this under bet as soon as you can before it most likely drops. If you missed it from me on the app at 47 a few days ago, I would recommend buying the half-point (see last week’s bet as a reason why).
Play: UNDER 47 (-110)