Free NFL Pick: Cleveland at Cincinnati 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Cincinnati -1

Overview:

The Bengals have had a huge drop off from last season. After an impressive sweeping of their division last season, they sit at a miserable 2-11. They have dropped ten straight games and there are job security issues, both in management and on the field. The franchise clearly is headed in the wrong direction and a shake up from top to bottom looks to be in their immediate future. It is probably not in their best interest to win this week, but they are taking on a beatable opponent.

The 5-8 Browns have won four of their last seven games. They are a team that can show up on any given Sunday and beat the elite teams in the NFL. Although they racked up wins against the Patriots and Saints, they also proved they can lose to just about anyone when they lost by seven to the Bills last week. They are playing on the road, but how much will that matter when facing a team who has one victory in their home stadium?

Keys to the Game:

  • Make that five 100 yard games this season for Peyton Hillis. He will be facing a Bengals defense who is soft up front and allows teams to run without much resistance. They are weak up front and their linebackers are under achieving. Hillis is a downhill runner. He wears defenses down and has an uncanny ability to find a crease and explode for a big gain. While he rarely breaks away for 30 yard gainers, he constantly picks up solid chunks of yardage and is a bruising downhill runner. It appears they got the better end of the trade with Denver.
  • Carson Palmer has thrown two or more interceptions in six games this season. People can speculate as to why Palmer is struggling, but the fact of the matter is, he is struggling. He may or may not wind up in a Bengals uniform next season. While he has been a solid piece of the Bengals franchise since he was drafted number one overall, it is unclear what the future holds. Regardless, Palmer will be playing as well as he possibly can. He might not only be playing for a job with the Bengals next year, he may be playing for an opportunity elsewhere.
  • Colt McCoy wins football games. The Browns look comfortable with him under center. He isn’t their best offensive weapon and he frequently looks the part of a rookie quarterback that has been thrown into the fire. Even so, it looks like he has the intangibles to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. He makes his share of mistakes, as he will continue to do as he gets acclimated to the level of play. Not everyone is Same Bradford. McCoy is going to be an intriguing prospect to watch develop.
  • The Bengals have to be able to run the football. One major difference between this year and last year is Cedric Benson’s inability to string together solid performances. After making a comeback and seemingly resurrecting his career in Cincinnati, he consistently finds himself below the three YPC mark. The Browns are not good at defending the run, so Benson has an opportunity to show that he wants it, something he has not done this season.

Key Matchup:

Terrell Owens and Chad Ocho Cinco Vs. The Browns’ Secondary

  • Chad Ocho Cinco is not having a season that is up to his standards. Even so, he draws attention and creates a lot of breathing room for his counterpart, Owens. T.O. is sixth in the NFL in yards and catches, as well as fifth in touchdown receptions. The Bengals may be hurting in many areas, but Owens has had a phenomenal season. After calling out management and his coaches last week, it is unclear if he will be returning next season. For now at least, it appears he is going to make a big impact in this game against inexperienced defensive backs.
  • Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown are not going to be able to handle the Bengals’ receivers. Both of them are outmatched and if they are left in single coverage, this game could turn out messy. Joe Haden has more raw talent than Brown, but Brown is a veteran guy. The two will be given safety help, but the safeties cannot become too fixated on one receiver or the running game, should it get going. The Browns need to keep everything in front of them and wait for Palmer to make mistakes, which is a likely possibility.

Wrap Up:

The Browns look like they are a better football team. While they dropped a game against the Bills, the Bengals have virtually no ambition or hope left in them this season. They might be at home, but they have not been impressive at any venue this season and it appears history will repeat itself.

Free NFL Pick: Cleveland +1


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