One week of NFL is in the books, and besides the lack of fans in almost every stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was basically professional football as we’ve come to know and love, with plenty of scoring, a few shocking upsets and everything else you get in Week 1. That includes a disappointing showing from a Browns team that has built some buzz under a new regime, as well as a highly-touted No. 1 overall pick at quarterback losing his first game.
First, let’s talk about Joe Burrow. While it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard, the rookie out of LSU looked like he belonged in his debut, leading his team down the field late and seemingly throwing a go-ahead touchdown that was nullified by a questionable flag before watching the Bengals kicker fail to send the game into overtime. The loss is what we’ve come to expect for quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall, as quarterbacks in that sample are 0-12-1 straight up in their last 13 debuts (1-11-1 ATS), per CBS Sports research.
It was also more of the same for the Browns, who entered Week 1 with plenty of optimism under a new coaching staff for a second straight year only to get housed by 30-plus points for a second straight year in their opener. Last year, they rebounded by walloping the Jets, and they’ll look to rediscover that success in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football.
We’re going to get you ready for the matchup on the gambling side of things in this space, including what you need to know about each aspect of the game from a betting perspective. All odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
For another view on this game, check out the play from the SportsLine Projection Model, which is up over $7,400 on its top-rated picks.
How to watch
Bengals at Browns (-6)
This line first opened back in May at Browns -8, and by the time Sunday started the Browns were still big favorites at -7.5. After their ugly performance combined with the Bengals staying in their opener until the end, William Hill reopened this matchup at Browns -6.5 on Sunday night, which was quickly bet down to Browns -6. It moved again to Browns -5.5 on Monday afternoon but was back at six by Wednesday.
The Bengals enter this game as losers of 13 straight on the road, but the market has underrated them in those matchups, as Cincinnati has posted a 8-5 ATS mark during that stretch. If you only consider road games where they’re ‘dogs of at least four points, that mark jumps to 8-3 ATS.
Injuries could play a big factor in this game as well. The Bengals have ruled out two defensive tackles, including star Geno Atkins, as well as guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and safety Shawn Williams. But the Browns enter the matchup with far more questions to address, as their top three tackles and starting center are all questionable, as is receiver Jarvis Landry and edge rusher Olivier Vernon. Corner Greedy Williams is one of four other players ruled out.
Pick: Bengals +6. Burrow’s numbers weren’t great in his debut, but he was also facing one of the toughest defenses in the league. I expect he’ll have more success against a beat-up Browns defense playing on a short week, especially with Cincinnati’s talented stable of receivers up against this Cleveland secondary. It’s on D.J. Reader to set the tone in the trenches to help slow down the Cleveland rushing attack, but if he can do that, the Bengals should take care of business.
Play moneyline at Bengals +220? I would. You’d have to project that the Bengals have a better than 31.25% chance of winning this matchup for there to be value on the moneyline, and I think that’s underselling them considerably after what we saw from these teams in Week 1.
Over/Under 43.5 points
This has done nothing but drop since it opened at 46 back in May. The reopened line on Sunday night put the game at 45 and the market continue to push it down, with the total hitting 43.5 by Wednesday morning.
Pick: Over 43.5. The last five meetings between these two teams all featured plenty of scoring, and we saw in Week 1 that the lack of a preseason didn’t affect offenses on the whole, with nine of the 16 opening week games going over their total. Even though these two teams struggled to score many points in Week 1, they were both playing much better defenses than what they’ll see here. I like playing it up at 43.5 and having the opportunity to cash at the key numbers of 44 and 45.
O/U 20.5 completions
O/U 33.5 attempts
O/U 236.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Under -190)
O/U 25.5 rushing yards
It sure feels like Burrow can hit most of the Overs, though I would be hesitant to fire on him throwing multiple TDs as I feel Zac Taylor could be looking to run the ball in once he gets…