Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
This Week 2 AFC North battle features two of the more decorated college quarterbacks in recent history — 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow and 2018 top choice Baker Mayfield. Each squad is coming off considerably different Week 1 losses.
The Bengals’ two chances to upset the Los Angeles Chargers in the closing seconds evaporated on a touchdown-nullifying offensive pass interference call and a badly-missed field goal prompted by kicker injury that could have sent the game into overtime.
In turn, the Browns looked like they were playing out a proverbial Week 18 of the 2019 season – they were blasted by the Ravens, 38-6, in a game that was strikingly reminiscent of the tenure of one-and-done head coach Freddie Kitchens.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
Bengals at Browns odds
According to conventional preseason wisdom, these two teams were supposed to bear little resemblance to their 2019 editions. After Week 1, that appears to mostly hold true for the Bengals. However, the 2020 version of the Browns looks suspiciously familiar so far. That makes their status as fairly large (albeit shrinking) favorites a bit eye-catching.
On Cincy’s side, the offseason optimism surrounding Burrow was mostly validated by his performance against a veteran Chargers defense that was poised to give him trouble in his first NFL start. While the top overall pick saw his first NFL touchdown pass wiped off the board by penalty, he showed no fear and plenty of field awareness while rattling off a 23-yard rushing TD to open the scoring on the day. Just as encouraging was his instant rapport with multi-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green. Playing in his first game since 2018, Green connected with Burrow on five occasions, not factoring in the aforementioned would-be game-winning TD grab.
As important as the likes of Burrow, Green and Tyler Boyd are to the Bengals’ fortunes, RB Joe Mixon may actually hold the keys to the potential Cincinnati upset I envision. Mixon completely dominated the Browns last season twice, rushing for 308 yards and three touchdowns at a clip of 6.3 yards per carry. He added 54 more yards through the air in the two contests. Cleveland finished last season allowing the third-most rushing yards per game (144.7).
The Browns should be able to improve on their Week 1 effort, considering they’re not exactly be facing the Ravens this week. However, a Bengals defense that gave up the most rushing yards per game last season (148.9) should be improved with offseason import D.J. Reader up front. And, while Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt – the latter who encouragingly saw 13 carries and turned them into 72 yards in Week 1 – are a fearsome duo, Cleveland is headed toward this game with three starting offensive linemen sporting questionable tags.
The Lean: Bengals moneyline (+200 or better)
TNF Point Spread
Both squads had poor track records against the spread overall last season. However, what will almost certainly prove to be an inferior 2019 Bengals team still managed a winning mark against the number when traveling (detailed below).
The Bengals were 6-10 (37.5 percent) against the spread last regular season, including 4-3 (57.1 percent) as an away team. Cincinnati is 0-1 against the number thus far this season.
The Browns were 5-10-1 (NFL-high 33.3 percent) against the spread last regular season, including 3-4-1 (42.9 percent) as a home team. Cleveland is 0-1 against the number thus far this season.
As already noted in the previous section, I’m leaning toward a Bengals upset here, so I’m naturally in the camp of an improved squad sliding in under this sizable number.
The Pick: Bengals +6 or better
TNF Over/Under Total
As already detailed, the Bengals had some success moving the ball against the Browns last season, especially on the ground. That was accomplished with a mostly middling Andy Dalton under center and no Green to help keep the defense honest. Then, Cleveland was still incorporating Hunt into its mix when they faced Cincy the first time and seem ready to give him a bigger role on the ground this season if Week 1 is any indication.
The Over was 7-9 (43.8 percent) in the Bengals’ games last regular season, including 2-5 (28.6 percent) in their away games. The Over is also 0-1 in Cincinnati’s games thus far this season.
Then, the Over was 8-8 in the Browns’ games last regular season, including 4-4 in their home games. The Over is also 0-1 in Cleveland’s games thus far this season.
While a pair of offenses helmed by a rookie QB playing his second game and a third-year QB that often still plays like a rookie can be very difficult to prognosticate, I see enough playmakers on either side of the ball here for the Over on a modest total to hit. However, given the unpredictability, I’m only confident enough to project it as a Lean.
The Lean: Over 43.5 points or better
Best TNF Prop Bet
Bengals to win by 1-6 points (+350 or better)
In line with my previous prediction of a Bengals upset, I like the idea of a flyer on this prop. If Cincy does manage to grab the win, I see it as very likely to be a close, highly competitive one that comes down to the wire. Each team is likely to have trouble separating from each other, especially considering their knowledge of most of each other’s personnel (Burrow is certainly a known quantity after his famed senior season), and the likelihood both QBs make a mistake or two should also up the chances of a tight game.