Browns @ Bengals: Back a small total points haul in Cincinnati when Cleveland come to town

AJ Green has been in great form for the Bengals
AJ Green has been in great form for the Bengals

Neil Harvey can see a low-scoring encounter between the Browns and the Bengals, and wouldn't rule out a Cincinnati comeback win...

"Cleveland meanwhile, may look down and out for the season. But they’re not yet. Victory here would put them within just a win of the Bengals. And then after that, the Browns have a favourable-looking run-in, including a game against the Jaguars and two against the Steelers."

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
Start Time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2 

 
If Peter Parker was alongside me now, I'm sure his spider-sense would be going crazy. That's because on the surface, this looks like a straight-forward win for the home team, but deep down, my sixth-sense is screaming 'It's a trap!'.
 
Currently top of the AFC North, the (6-4) Bengals look to be in with a strong chance of making the play-offs. In terms of strengths, their main weapon on offense is AJ Green, who's undoubtedly one of the top three wide receivers in the league. While elsewhere, their number four ranked defense has helped keep the Bengals in contention in just about every game they've played. In fact, only once have they lost by more than single figures. 
 
Credit should go to Cincinnati for emerging with a winning record, from a schedule where they've played six of their first ten matches on the road. Now though, they can look forward to a run of home games. And that should be a huge boost to the Bengals' hopes of clinching the divisional title, given that they've won four from four at the Paul Brown Stadium this season.
 
So to summarise, the Bengals are very strong at home, have a solid defense, and nearly all their games are close. Their offense though is not spectacular. In fact, Green aside, they don't have any other big weapons. Quaterback Andy Dalton is the personification of mediocre. While the same description could also apply to Cincy's running game, and even then I'm being generous, with Giovani Bernard's best rushing effort of the season so far, a paltry 79 yards. In fact, all this goes a long way to explaining why the Bengals' games are often so tight.
 
Cleveland meanwhile, may look down and out for the season. But they're not yet. Victory here would put them within just a win of the Bengals. And then after that, the Browns have a favourable-looking run-in, including a game against the Jaguars and two against the Steelers.
 
And the reality is, the more you look at the stats, the closer this contest becomes, with a lot of similarities to be drawn between the two teams. The Browns, at fifth, rank just one place below the Bengals in terms of defence. While on offence, it's Cincinnati who have the edge, but only by very little, when it comes to both running and passing the ball. In fact, put AJ Green in the Browns side, and you'd just about have the Bengals.
 
But I've been saving the best information for last. And that is that in Week Four, Cleveland beat the Bengals 17-6, and in so doing, inflicted Cincinnati's biggest defeat of the season. It wasn't New England, nor Green Bay, but in fact the Browns who were the only team to put-up a double-digits win over the Bengals so far this season. On that occasion, Cleveland's star cornerback Joe Haden had AJ Green in his pocket all game, limiting the Bengals main-man to just 51 yards. And instead, it was Cleveland tight-end Jordan Cameron who led the game in receiving, with 91 yards and one of six touchdowns for him on the season.

Home advantage, plus the fact the Bengals are unbeaten in Cincinnati, would lead you to think they should win this game. But it's no certainty, given the way the Browns shut down their offence first time round. And let's not forget how many times the Bengals have won by narrow margins. So getting a healthy head-start, the up-side has to be in going with the Browns, who could even pull-off a shock win, should everything go their way. 
 
Also, both teams rank in the bottom half of the NFL for points scored, suggesting this could once again be a low-scoring encounter. Amazingly, the Bengals have only led at half time in one of their four home games, despite going on to win all of them. So I'll take the big price on offer for them to again make a slow start, before fighting back to sneak yet another win.

Recommended Bets
 
Back Cleveland (+6.5) at 20/23 (Sportsbook)
Back Under 41.5 in the Total Point market @ 20/23 (Sportsbook)
Back Cleveland/Cincinnati in HT/FT market at expected odds of 6.511/2 or better

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