The model is going after the battle of Ohio, taking the Browns at +2.5 "on the road" the Bengals. There isn't much to say about the betting markets -- the line has held strong at 2.5 throughout the week, which is typical when a line is so close to a key number. 2/3 of betting tickets is on the Bengals, though money wagered is a 50/50 split. This means there are larger bets on the Browns, but since money is evenly distributed Vegas is simply going to collect the vig.
Baker Mayfield sits in 20th in PFF passing grades at 72.0. He's completing 66.7% of his passes (1.3% above expectation) and gaining 8.3 yards per attempt, the latter figure being 8th best in the league. Mayfield prefers to push the ball down field, ranking 7th in the NFL in aDOT at 9.1, 7th in deep passing rate (20+ yards down the field), and 5th in intermediate passing rate (10-19 yards). To do so, he holds onto the ball, his average time to throw is 2.92 seconds, which is 7th slowest in the league. This typically leads to pressure, but since the the Browns have one of the better offensive lines in football Mayfield is only under pressure 28.8% of the time, which is 10th lowest in the league. That said, they'll be weaker than normal at the tackle position after Jack Conklin injured his elbow last week. 10th overall selection Jedrick Wills has maned the left tackle spot but has struggled in his rookie season -- his pass blocking efficiency stat from PFF is 9th worst among all tackles. The interior of the line is rock solid, led by LG Joel Bitonio, C JC Tretter, and RG Wyatt Teller. The top receivers by projected targets: Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, Rashard Higgins, and TE David Njoku. Absent is Odell Beckham Jr, who is going to be released on Monday. Landry will run about half of his routes from the slot and will handle the shorter/intermediate routes, where Higgins will take the deeper options. On the ground, Nick Chubb will handle the bulk of the carries, particularly with Kareem Hunt on IR (calf). Chubb is one of the better backs in football -- he's averaging 4.03 yards AFTER contact, 3rd best in the league. Overall, the Browns are 5th in offensive DVOA (15th in pass, 1st in run) and 15th in EPA/play. The defense is a more modest 19th in DVOA. They're pass rush can be disruptive, led by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Garrett is putting together an defensive MVP season -- by PFF numbers he's second in pressures (44), 1st in sacks (12), and 5th in hurries (25). Clowney is officially questionable (ankle/knee/hip), but he was also questionable after not practicing all week last week and still played. This week he got in a limited session Friday after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, so we fully expect him to play. They also have three solid corners -- Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II, and Troy Hill (slot). However, they have weaknesses outside of the players mentioned, and for reasons that I can't fully explain have struggled against the pass (25th in DVOA) and have been dominant against the run (3rd in DVOA).
Joe Burrow is 8th in PFF passing grades (85.4), with a 67.9% completion percentage (4.6% above expectation) and gaining 9.0 yards per attempt (3rd in the league). He attacks all levels of the field, his aDOT of 8.8 yards is 12th highest in the league, and his time to throw of 2.58 seconds is 12th fastest. He's been blitzed at the 10th highest rate in the league at 28.2%, but his PFF grade in those situations is 94.4, best in the league. The Ravens learned the hard way that you simply do not blitz Joe Burrow, but luckily for us the Browns aren't a blitz-heavy team, they're 21.7% blitz rate is 22nd highest in the league. The top receivers by projected targets: Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, TE CJ Uzomah, and RB Joe Mixon. Chase is well on his way to rookie of the year honors, his 80.9 receiving grade is 11th highest in the league, and Burrow has a 127.4 passer rating when targeting Chase. Chase also serves as the deep threat, where Higgins takes the more intermediate routes and Boyd takes the shorter routes out of the slot. The offensive line is improved over earlier iterations which have been a laughingstock, but they still have weaknesses - C Trey Hopkins and RG Jackson Carman both have PFF grades under 50. Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff have been solid at tackle, however. Joe Mixon will handle the Bramajority of the RB snaps. Overall, the offense is 22nd in DVOA. The defense lacks star power, but they don't have a ton of weak points either. They're pressure rate of 29.4% is 14th in the league, led by Trey Hendrickson (41 pressures), Sam Hubbard (26), Larry Ogunjobi (18), and DJ Reader (15). CB Chidobe Awuzie has been solid, but his counterpart, Eli Apple, has been very generous to opposing quarterbacks. Overall, the Bengals offense is 13th in DVOA, with splits of 17 against the pass and 10 against the run.