NFL Week 10 Thursday Picks

NFL Picks

Here are Will and Derek’s picks for the Week 10 Thursday night game. Picks for the remainder of the games will run on Friday.

(Home team in caps. Line per consensus.)

CINCINNATI (-6) vs. Cleveland

The Basics

Cincinnati: 5-2-1, 1st AFC North, #12 total offense, #13 scoring offense, #30 total defense, #17 scoring defense

Cleveland: 5-3, 3rd AFC North, #14 total offense, #16 scoring offense, T-#28 total defense, #8 scoring defense


Derek: I’m going to keep it brief. Our paying customers are here to see what Will has to say about the Battle of Ohio. He’s also likely in a delicate emotional state because of Gordon Hayward. He should be lots of fun today.

This is being billed as the Greg Little Revenge Game. I’m sure we’re all interested in that subplot. I’d probably pick the Bengals straight up since they’re at home. But, I get six points with Cleveland, and they’re more fun to cheer for. I got killed picking favorites last week. Cleveland needs a pick-me-up. I think they’ll at least cover.

Will: I have a friend who is an NFL scout for a team that is not involved in this game. I awoke to a message from him saying “tonight is a game the Browns can and will win.” As if I needed an excuse to get hyped.

It’s a wild time to be a Cleveland fan. The Browns are above .500 and the Cavs* are trying to give everyone a heart attack.

*A brief aside on the Cavs: They’ll be fine. I’m not about to make any title proclamation, but they’ll look like a real squad in time. They’re a fascinating team to watch, and #CavsTwitter is a fascinating community to be a part of during games. I’m enjoying the theater of all of the competing narratives, but not getting wrapped up in it just yet. It is a bummer knowing that the rest of the league hates us. Alas.

I don’t want to mislead anyone — The Battle of Ohio is like the fourth-most heated rivalry in the AFC North, if that. I estimate Steelers-Ravens, Steelers-Browns, and Steelers-Bengals to be the top three, because Pittsburgh is generally a competent and thus hatable franchise. The Browns and Bengals have a proud joint history of suckage, and despite Cincinnati making the playoffs five times in the past ten years, there just isn’t that much juice when these teams come together. That might be the Browns’ fault more than anything.

The Bengals lead the all-time series 43-38, buoyed by a 19-11 record since 1999. The NFL’s proudest proponents of the color orange have played some surprisingly fun games over the past decade, including the Bengals’ 58-48 win in 2004 and the Browns’ 51-45 victory in 2007 . Kelly Holcomb threw for five touchdowns and Rudi Johnson ran for 202 yards in 2004. Jamal Lewis ran for 216 yards and Chad Johnson was still called Chad Johnson in 2007. Words that appear in the ledes of those game recaps include strange, bizarre, turbulence, and absurdity. This is Ohio football!

The most interesting part of Cleveland vs. Cincinnati is the differences in the cities and their residents, or at least the perceived differences. Clevelanders fancy themselves more cosmopolitan and derisively refer to the Queen City as Cincitucky. Cleveland leans Democratic; Cincinnati Republican. Basically, Cleveland is more northern, and Cincinnati more southern, and each city probably thinks the other is lame.

I imagine that the preceding paragraph is hilarious to non-Ohioans, who think we’re all barn-dwelling dopes.

Anywho, the game. Both sides are dealing with injuries. Big ones for the Bengals include cornerback Leon Hall, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, running back Giovani Bernard, linebacker Rey Maualuga, and offensive tackle Andre Smith; all are listed as out or doubtful. Center Alex Mack is still out for the Browns, as is tight end Jordan Cameron. A.J. Green is slated to return for Cincinnati this week, which immediately makes their offense 100% more frightening.

Green and Browns cornerback Joe Haden have a history dating back to college, when Green was a Georgia Bulldog and Haden a Florida Gator. Haden has fared pretty well against Green in the pros, though A.J. has beaten him for a couple long receptions. In fact, 45 percent of Green’s career yards against Haden have come on just two plays, as outlined in this piece by Bengals blog Cinci Jungle.

Both teams have struggled to stop the run this year, allowing an average 139.6 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. The Browns rushing attack has been a special kind of disaster since Alex Mack went down — 52.7 yards per game — which in turn puts a lot on the shoulders of Brian Hoyer.

These teams appear to be evenly matched, or at least close enough to it for this six-point line to be a touch high. I don’t expect a ton of points, and I think the game will come down to which offense can help its beleaguered quarterback more, both in pass protection and running/receiving. I’ll take the Browns, expecting a cover and hoping for a win.

And zero catches for Greg Little.

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