Bengals vs. Browns: Low Total Likely With Starters Resting

Bengals vs. Browns: Low Total Likely With Starters Resting article feature image

Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase

  • The latest Bengals vs. Browns odds list Cleveland as a 5-point favorite against a Cincinnati team resting its starting quarterback in Joe Burrow.
  • Our analyst isn't betting on the spread, though. Find out why he's targeting this low over/under instead.
  • He outlines his picks and predictions in his full preview for this NFL Week 18 matchup below.

Bengals vs. Browns Odds

Bengals Odds+5
Browns Odds-5
Time1 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.

After last week's loss to the Steelers, the Browns are officially eliminated from the playoffs. That means they can mercifully move on from Baker Mayfield — who's struggled mightily while playing with a torn left shoulder. It remains to be seen which other starters will be active for Clevland in this one. My initial guess is that anyone healthy will play, but it's no guarantee.

The Bengals also have little to play for this week, albeit for different reasons. They've clinched the AFC North, and have very little hope of improving their playoff seeding. Accordingly, they've already announced that quarterback Joe Burrow (rest) and running back Joe Mixon (COVID) will be getting the week off. I'd expect that to mean their top wideouts (Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and potentially Tyler Boyd) also get a break too. They could also be active but play a limited role, further muddling the waters.

That leaves us with a very hard-to-predict Week 18 matchup between these intrastate rivals. Will we be able to find any betting angles to exploit?

Click the arrow to expand injury reports

Bengals vs. Browns Injury Report

Bengals Injuries

  • EDGE Cam Sample (hamstring): Out
  • CB Jalen Davis (ankle): Out
  • QB Joe Burrow (rest/knee): Questionable
  • TE C.J. Uzomah (knee/hip): Questionable
  • DT D.J. Reader (rest): Questionable
  • DE Sam Hubbard (thigh): Questionable

Browns Injuries

  • S Ronnie Harrison Jr. (ankle): Questionable
  • CB Troy Hill (knee): Questionable
  • RB Kareem Hunt (ankle): Questionable
  • S John Johnson III (hamstring): Questionable
  • TE David Njoku (shoulder): Questionable
  • CB Denzel Ward (groin): Questionable
  • CB Greedy Williams (shoulder): Questionable

Bengals vs. Browns Matchup

Bengals OffenseDVOA RankBrowns Defense
Bengals DefenseDVOA RankBrowns Offense
Football Outsiders' DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team's success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.

What Will Bengals Look Like This Week?

The Bengals lived up to the promise of their explosive offense in Weeks 16 and 17. They scored a combined 75 points on the strength of eight Burrow passing touchdowns in that span.

Of course, that doesn't much matter with Burrow resting and Mixon on the COVID-19/reserve list. The Bengals offense will likely struggle without those key contributors, regardless of which receivers end up taking the field.

Brandon Allen will likely be the quarterback, as he was after Burrow tore his ACL last season. Allen was serviceable, but certainly played like a backup — recording a 6.0 adjusted yards per attempt (A/YA) mark. That would rank 27th in the league this season.

Of particular concern is the Bengals offensive line. They rank 31st in adjusted sack rate on the season. That's a problem against Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Especially with a backup quarterback.

Defensively, the Bengals cooled off this season after a hot start. They were a top-10 defense by DVOA for much of the season, but have slipped to 20th. Some of that was due to their recent schedule (though DVOA is weighted for opponent strength, it can't control for everything).

Still, they have the talent to match up with a Browns team that has struggled mightily offensively even with their starting quarterback. The strength of the Bengals defense is against the run, which will be extra valuable against the Browns.

Browns Ready For Vacation

After a 3-1 start, the season got out of hand quickly for Cleveland. While the Browns were technically still in playoff contention last week, their odds were fairly slim even then. That's behind them now, though, as they head into a meaningless Week 18 game.

Post-elimination games certainly have a different feel for teams expected to contend. It's one thing for young teams to play hard as the season dwindles, it's another for a team that had playoff aspirations. The latter situation is the case for Cleveland this week.

All of which makes evaluating the Browns based on their current statistics futile. I'd expect the offensive game plan to be very run heavy, as they attempt to shorten the game as much as possible and move on to their vacations. That's not ideal for attacking the Bengals, but makes sense here.

Defensively, Cleveland is a roughly average team. However, it matches up extremely well with the Bengals' backups. Expect Cincinnati to employ a similar offensive game plan — except without the running back or offensive line talent that Cleveland has.

Bengals vs. Browns Predictions

While 38 points is a remarkably low total in the NFL, it might just be too high here. We've seen it on both ends of the spectrum — oddsmakers are only willing to go so far with where they set totals, even when games are expected to be true outliers.

Cleveland has been held to 14 points or fewer in five of its last seven outings — and it is favored here. It's hard to see either backup quarterback leading the Browns to much offensive production this week.

Keep an eye on the status of the Bengals receivers and the Browns defensive starters as we get closer to game time. The former group playing (or the latter group sitting) would both increase the expected production in this one.

Barring any unforeseen news, though, expect a slow-paced, offensively challenged game here. I'm taking the under.

Pick: Under 38 | Bet to: 36

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