STAR PREVIEW Sun: Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

Both of these sides enter their Week 9 divisional match up keen to forget the ugly performances they put up in the previous week. The Bengals had been a side on the up prior to Week 8 and would have gone to the Jets thinking another W was in the books.

Instead, they threw away an 11-point lead to a side that had been having troubling putting drives together let alone points on the board to a back up quarterback starting his first NFL game. Events weren’t much kinder to the Browns who got dominated on both sides of the ball by Pittsburgh that didn’t have a kicker in the second half, getting beaten 15-10.

It goes without saying that both need to bounce back and find their rhythm again in a division that looks increasingly congested. In the Bengals defence maybe they didn’t know what to expect from the Jets last week who had nothing to lose and played above themselves and this does look like a spot where they can bounce back. For one thing the Bengals will know what to expect this week from a side they play twice a year and one whose quarterback, Baker Mayfield is playing hurt.

Even in last week’s defeat the Cincinnati pass offence continued to produce points and yards with quarterback Joe Burrow ranked No. 6 in the league in passing yards (2,215), No. 3 in yards per pass attempt (9.0) and No. 3 in passing touchdowns (20). Burrow also has a triumvirate of dangerous receivers to operate with and he faces a Cleveland pass defence which has permitted the NFL’s third-most passing scores (17).

Protecting Burrow will be key to this game and if there is a flaw in the Bengals pass offence it’s the fact that Burrow has already been sacked 20 times this year and the Browns pass rush has at times been very effective. However last week the Browns managed to only get pressure on 13.5 percent of the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger’s dropbacks and coughed up multiple big passing plays; that’s something that Burrow and his cohorts will be looking to exploit this week.

Cleveland have faced four teams in the Top 10 in league passing, and gave up 33 points (Chiefs), 47 points (Chargers), and 37 points (Cardinals). The Bengals currently sit 11th in the passing charts and although they started the season slowly they look to be firing on all cylinders now, with 10 passing TDs over the last three games and at least two passing scores in every contest. Burrow’s link up with the rookie Ja’Marr Chase has been electric with Chase collecting 786 yards already. He needs 84 more on Sunday to pass Marques Colston (869 in 2006) for the most receiving yards through a player’s first nine games. It’s not only Chase who the banged-up Browns secondary are going to have to deal with though as Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins present match up threats.

It may well be at the tight-end position that causes the Browns the most problems though and that was evident last week when the Steelers tight-ends gained 83 yards and a touchdown against them. C.J. Uzomah the Bengals No1 at that position is therefore one to note for a big game, he’s played 80% of the Bengals offensive snaps in four of their last five games and looks worth keeping onside in any player markets that are available.

After their defeats last week by arch rivals the Steelers the week didn’t get much better for the Browns who got caught in the eye of a media storm over one of their main receivers Odell Beckham Jr wanting to up sticks and leave the team. That wish has now been granted but it’s a distraction that the Cleveland franchise could have done without off the back of that moribund performance last week.

Beckham’s departure further weakens a Browns passing cabal that has been wrecked by injuries, had to cope with poor quarterback play for the most part from Mayfield and quite frankly just hasn’t been on the same page for most of the year. So how have they put points on the board? With their run game that’s the answer but even that’s now depleted with Kareem Hunt on injured reserve and Nick Chubb just back from injury.

They may have found a diamond in the rough in former practice squad player D’Ernest Johnson to back up Chubb but knowing how the Browns love to move the ball on the ground teams are selling out to stop the run against Cleveland. With the lack of a credible pass games the Browns are struggling to keep teams honest; they have recorded the second-fewest passing TDs (seven in eight games) and eighth-fewest pass plays for 20+ yards.

Cincinnati look to have the best chance to bounce back from their nightmare in the Big Apple last week with Burrow using his passing arsenal to good effect against a sub-standard Browns secondary. Cincinnati have scored at least 24 points in six of eight games this season, with the two outliers being 17 points at Chicago in Week 2 (Bengals had a season-high four turnovers) and 22 against Green Bay in Week 5 (with two missed field goals).

Facing this Browns defence which has struggled before against good passing attacks it’s not hard to see the Bengals toping 25.5 team points. Chase is an obvious touchdown recipient but I think Burrow will look to spread things around and Uzomah and Higgins both deserve recognition in the anytime TD market.

BACK Cincinnati Bengals Over 25.5 match points 2pts at Evens (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Joe Burrow Over +270.5 passing yards 2pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Tee Higgins to score a TD 1pt at 11/8 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK C.J. Uzomah to score a TD 1pt at 2/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (NOVEMBER 2021): LOSS -13.48 points
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