The finale of the NFL regular season can be a tough one to decipher, and the week 18 Browns at Bengals betting matchup is no different. Cleveland has won 9 of the last 11 in the Battle of Ohio and there are obviously some bragging rights on the line, but the Browns (11-5) also have bigger fish to fry as they are locked into the #5 seed for the postseason and will rest many starters.
Cincinnati (8-8) can clinch their third straight winning season with a victory at home on Sunday, and there is also some AFC North pride on the line considering if the Bengals won it would be the first time every team in a division finished above .500. Oddsmakers have Cincinnati a -7.5 favorite against the skeleton crew of the Browns.
Why the Browns Have Value at +7.5
Cleveland is a hard team to go against because they just simply win games this year. Kevin Stefanski is the whopping -950 favorite to win Coach of the Year and even though the resurgent Joe Flacco will rest for the playoffs, that’s nothing new for the Browns who will start their fifth different QB on Sunday in Cincinnati.
Jeff Driskel will be starting QB #5 for Cleveland in this matchup, and he has a little revenge factor going since he was with Cincinnati from 2016-2018. Driskel has started 10 games in his career – which is actually more than Bengals QB Jake Browning (6).
Not only has Stefanski led the Browns to an extremely successful 2023, he’s also had a lot of recent success vs the Bengals. Cleveland has gone 6-1 v Cincinnati since Stefanski took over the team in 2020 – when he was also named Coach of the Year.
Why the Bengals Have Value at -7.5
The Bengals had their playoff hopes dashed on the heels of consecutive losses to Pittsburgh (34-11) and Kansas City (25-17). The offense hasn’t looked as good as they did when Browning led them to three straight wins while averaging 31.6 ppg, but the Steelers and Chiefs both have very solid defenses and both of those games were on the road.
Browning has completed over 69% of his passes in all three home starts this season and had 275+ yards with 4 TDs / 2 INTs in wins over the Colts and Vikings. The biggest boost the young Bengals QB gets is that Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett and his 14 sacks will not be playing on Sunday to rest his ailing shoulder for the postseason. The Browns are also missing three starters in the defensive backfield.
The Bengals have plenty to play for on Sunday, trying to get a third straight winning season under Zac Taylor and to build some momentum for 2024 when they hopefully get a healthy Joe Burrow back in the lineup. Ja’Marr Chase also only needs four catches for 100 on the year, Joe Mixon is 77 yards short of 1,000, and Trey Hendrickson is tied for the league lead with 17 sacks.
Free Week 18 Browns at Bengals Betting Pick
Cleveland has the defense to make some noise in the playoffs, and Flacco has been amazing since joining Cleveland “off of his couch.” The Browns are looking ahead to the postseason, while Cincinnati is just trying to finish on a strong note and maybe exorcise some of their recent demons vs Cleveland.
Free Pick: Bengals -7.5