One of two AFC North showdowns, the Cincinnati Bengals have won the division, but have something to play for in terms of playoff seeding. However, the team is resting quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon was placed on the COVID list and will miss the game.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns have announced that quarterback Baker Mayfield is out for this game and will get surgery on his shoulder.
With one team coming in with a competent backup in Case Keenum and the other still with a chance at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, let’s examine the best bets.
Richard’s Prediction Picks Record: 13-16 (-0.10 units)
Please note that all NFL gameday odds are current as of 4:00 p.m. EST on January 7, 2022.
Bengals vs Browns Prediction
Even with a potential higher-seeding up for grabs, the Bengals appear ready to rest some starters. We touched on Burrow and Mixon, but wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase may play only a partial game if at all, and tight end C.J. Uzomah has missed some practice this week.
Of course, this could all drastically change if the Kansas City Chiefs, who are the current No. 2 seed, lose to the Denver Broncos on Saturday.
If that happens, expect everyone who’s not on the COVID list to suit up.
However, operating under the assumption we will be getting a quarterback matchup of Keenum for the Browns versus Brandon Allen for the Bengals, that totally alters the playing field, and the lines at sportsbooks have reflected that.
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This game opened with the Bengals as 2.5-point favorites and that was when we were pretty sure Burrow would at least play a quarter or so.
Without Burrow, Mixon, and potentially Chase, the Bengals now sit as six-point road dogs.
For the Browns, honestly, going from Mayfield to Keenum could be viewed as an upgrade. Mayfield has been terrible and Keenum will at least play in a way that won’t put the ball in harm’s way.
Still, even with Allen under center, the Browns’ offense is still quite inept and we are unsure what the Browns will do in terms of who they’ll play.
We know Chubb will be active, but he’s dealing with a rib injury and could see his role reduced.
With all of this in mind, the Browns should win, but not by much.
Prediction: Browns 16, Bengals 13
Bengals vs Browns Best Bets
Best Bet: Bengals +6 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
While Keenum should handle the football well enough in terms of not turning the ball over, it’s still going to be hard to make this Browns offense go. With Mayfield or Keenum it doesn’t matter—the team’s offense is putrid.
Chubb will play, yes, but it’s unreasonable to think he’ll get 30 carries in a game in which he has a rib injury and the team has zero shot at the playoffs.
Allen leaves plenty to be desired as a quarterback, but Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has done a lot as of late that has revived my belief in him. He’ll be able to develop a game plan for Allen.
If Chase plays, you can expect some of that game plan to be to get him the ball and he should be able to handle the Browns with ease.
The Browns are a bad football team and six points, even at home, is just way too much to lay against the Bengals in our NFL pick of the day.
Heck, I’d sprinkle some cash on the Bengals moneyline, too.
Best Bet: Under 38 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 0.5 Units
Even though both teams are on a collision course for an absurd lack of offense, 38 points is still very low.
Still, I’ll take my chances here at the under with a reduced units wager because, as mentioned, unless starters begin to get pulled and a lot of things happen that we can’t quite predict, a Keenum-led offense and an Allen-led offense against an opposing defense that has starting-caliber players are going to struggle to put up points.
At 38, if you wanted to take the over, I won’t talk you out of it, though.
Maybe wait until right before kick-off to see if you can at least get a hook added to this 38 or something.