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NFL Betting: Browns vs. Bengals Thursday Night Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 11/6/2014 11:28:40 AM

The entire AFC North is above .500, with all four teams having at least five wins. This is an unexpected show of strength, and it’s largely because of the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals – Thursday, November 6

The AFC North was supposed to be a fight between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns have gotten involved as well this season. Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that the Steelers were out of it, having been humiliated by the Browns in Cleveland. It had been a long time since the Browns had ever made the Steelers look that bad, and that blowout was a testament to the quality of the job being done by Cleveland’s first-year head coach, Mike Pettine. The Browns have been nothing if not a combative and determined team this year, constantly fighting back from fourth-quarter deficits to win games. The team is showing a level of heart that wasn’t quite in evidence last year. Heart doesn’t mean much, though, if you can’t execute, and the Browns are clearly making more plays in the fourth quarter this season. This past Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was no exception. The Browns’ defense shut out the Bucs throughout the quarter, while the offense, trailing 17-16, was able to drive the ball down the field for a touchdown and a 22-17 win. Tampa Bay drove into Cleveland territory in the final minutes, but the Browns’ defense held firm, lifting the team to a 5-3 record. The Browns don’t always start well, but they’re usually better when the game is on the line. This is why they have a real shot at the playoffs for the first time in about a decade.

The Bengals were always supposed to be in this position, contending for the division championship and a spot in the playoffs. Cincinnati’s season was interrupted by an injury to star receiver A.J. Green, who missed portions of some games and had to sit out a whole game at one point. Green is the receiver who opens up the rest of the field for the other Bengal receivers. Even if he’s not at his very best, he can still make a difference if he can at least show a reasonable amount of speed. Last Sunday, Green caught only three passes for 44 yards, but he was in the lineup, and that’s why teammate Mohamed Sanu was able to come up with 95 receiving yards. As long as Green is on the field, Cincinnati has a better chance of succeeding.

What’s going to be difficult for Green in this game, though, is that this is a short week. Will Green’s toe injury allow him to be reasonably close to his best? If not, Cleveland’s defense – which has been effective this season – gains a much better chance of being able to slow down Cincinnati’s offense.

Both quarterbacks – Brian Hoyer of Cleveland and Andy Dalton of Cincinnati – threw two interceptions in their most recent games. The one who can clean up his game better will probably win. This feels like a close game. Cincinnati will probably win, but only by a field goal.

Pick: Browns +6

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