Three division-leading teams will be playing in games involving Ohio’s two NFL teams this weekend, and the 5-8 Browns are deemed to have about as good a chance of winning as any of them.
That’s because Cleveland will be hosting a Baltimore Ravens team expected to be missing Lamar Jackson at quarterback late Saturday afternoon, with backup Tyler Huntley also possibly sidelined while currently in concussion protocol.
Ohioans can’t wager legally within the state until a massive launch on Jan. 1 of retail and digital sportsbooks, but national oddsmakers make the Browns a 2.5-point or 3-point favorite for what will be the middle game of a three-game NFL slate on Saturday.
The Bengals were favored Thursday morning by slightly more — 3.5 points seemingly everywhere — for their game on Sunday visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After winning five straight games, Cincinnati is tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North at 9-4, while the Bucs lead the NFC South at 6-7 only because their division is so woeful this year.
Watson hopes for more in third start
The Browns and Bengals met last Sunday, of course, in their second intrastate rivalry game of the season, with Cincy gaining revenge for its earlier loss by winning handily 23-10.
It was the second start in a Browns uniform for Deshaun Watson after his 11-game suspension, and the 4:25 p.m. Ravens game will be his first start before home fans at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The offense has yet to really jell with Watson, as the Browns have just one offensive touchdown in the two games with him behind center. Against Cincinnati, he completed 26 of 42 passes for 276 yards with both a passing TD and interception.
Worse in that game for the Browns, the ground game was able to compile just 71 yards, with Nick Chubb held to 34 on 14 carries.
Despite their quarterback issues, the Ravens used three interceptions Sunday to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-14. They thrived on their own ground game in rushing for 215 yards, while Baltimore had just 94 passing yards combined from Huntley, who was knocked out by a hard hit in the third quarter, and third-stringer Anthony Brown.
The uncertainty about Baltimore’s quarterback situation — and the questionable capabilities of whomever it starts –have DraftKings, Barstool Sportsbook, and Caesars Sportsbook willing to make Cleveland a 3-point favorite. A Browns bettor could do better using the 2.5-point spread offered by FanDuel and BetMGM.
BetMGM and PointsBet are offering the best moneyline return to Browns backers at -150. The points total is a very modest 37 at most sites, with FanDuel going a half-point higher.
Among player prop bets available as of Thursday morning, DraftKings offered Watson’s passing yards at over/under 224.5 and Chubb’s rushing yards at o/u 73.5.
Bengals favored to win sixth straight
The Bengals, interestingly, are given better odds to win the AFC than the Ravens (+500 for Cincinnati and +1100 for Baltimore at BetMGM), but the Ravens remain the favorite to win the AFC North (-135 for them, +110 for the Bengals at BetMGM). That has a lot to do with Baltimore holding a tiebreaker advantage from the teams’ meeting in October, but they play again in the regular-season finale in Cincinnati on Jan. 8.
The Bengals are on a roll, which the Buccaneers most definitely are not, resulting in Cincinnati being a 3.5-point favorite for the game at Raymond James Stadium.
The best moneyline return to be had for a Bengals victory is the -190 from BetMGM and PointsBet. The over/under is generally 44, with FanDuel a tick lower Thursday at 43.5.
While there were concerns about injuries that took wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd out of the game against the Browns, they have practiced this week and are expected to play. It helps Joe Burrow greatly, regardless, that Ja’Marr Chase is healthy again.
Chase caught 10 passes for 119 yards and a score on Sunday. The return of a healthy Joe Mixon to the backfield also was a big assist, as he gained 96 yards on 14 carries.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 12, 2022
Tampa Bay lost to the San Francisco 49ers 35-7 last weekend in a game in which they trailed by 28 points at halftime.
This is not your father’s Tom Brady leading Tampa Bay anymore, it seems. It took him 55 pass attempts on Sunday to amass 253 yards, and he had two interceptions.
He is averaging a career-low 6.2 yards per attempt, and the Bucs’ 3.3 yards-per-carry running game — it gathered just 69 yards against San Francisco, while the 49ers had 209 rushing yards themselves — hasn’t been helping the offense much either.
Photo: Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network