- Joe Burrow is expected to start for the Bengals after suffering a calf injury during the preseason.
- Burrow just signed a five year, $275 million USD extension making him the highest paid player in NFL history.
- Cleveland finished the 2022 season with a 7-10 record while Cincinnati finished 12-4.
The ‘battle of Ohio’ will be among the featured games on Sunday’s Week 1 NFL slate as the Cincinnati Bengals travel the 250 or so miles to take on the Cleveland Browns. Much is expected of the Bengals this season after back to back winning seasons. Much is also expected of quarterback Joe Burrow, who just signed a five year, $275 million USD extension making him the highest paid player in NFL history.
Burrow suffered a calf injury early in training camp but should be 100% to start here. He might, however, be a bit rusty after not seeing any game action during preseason. It won’t take him long to round into form, however, and the optimism surrounding the Bengals this year is well founded. On the other side of the field, the situation is significantly less clear. Cleveland is coming off of back to back losing seasons going 8-9 SU in 2021 and 7-10 SU last year. The quarterback duties now fall upon Deshaun Watson who received a big money, fully guaranteed contract after wearing out his welcome in Houston. Continuity at quarterback has been a constant refrain for the Browns–Watson is starting quarterback number thirty-two dating back to 2000.
I’ve never liked the term ‘trap game’–it’s usually a poor rationalization from a losing bettor who made an inadvisable play that didn’t work out. Short road favorites are arguably the most common ATS situation for these so called ‘traps’ and I’m thinking you’ll hear plenty of that talk come Monday. One of the first things you should learn as a young handicapper is that nothing is ever as easy as it looks. In the big picture, it’s hard to argue against Cincinnati being the superior team and they’re being asked to lay less than a field goal against a divisional foe dealing with hard times. What could go wrong?
Spoiler alert–plenty. Cincinnati has struggled mightily against the Browns on the road. In fact, should the Bengals manage to get the ‘W’ here it will be the first time that Burrow will have beaten them in Cleveland. Burrow is 0-4 SU in these games and as a team the Bengals have lost five straight on the Browns’ home field. Burrow is a significantly better quarterback than Watson but given the intangibles–the ‘rust’ factor, a recent injury and the fact he just signed a deal for a quarter of a billion dollars–could give Watson the situational edge. Cleveland has another advantage–they’ve got a very good offensive line and return all five starters from a year ago along with a top running back in Nick Chubb.
Depending on how long it takes Burrow to regain form it could be a slow start this season for Cincinnati. This would not be an aberration–it would be completely ‘on brand’ for the Zac Taylor era Bengals. In four years under Taylor they’re 1-7 SU/3-4-1 ATS in their first two regular season games. Browns upgraded their defense in the offseason by bringing in Jim Schwartz as coordinator. Cleveland’s ‘D’ looked good in the preseason with 9 INTs and if they can carry this tendency over to the regular season they could make life surprisingly difficult for Burrow and the Bengals.