The second week of the NFL season begins on Thursday with a pair of AFC North teams looking to rebound from losses on Sunday.
Cincinnati has mixed emotions after suffering a 16-13 loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers. Kicker Randy Bullock missed a chip-shot 31-yard field goal as time expired that would have forced overtime. Yet the organization has to feel very encouraged by what they saw in the debut of their franchise quarterback. Joe Burrow’s stat line was not eye-popping. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 193 yards while throwing a bad interception to Chargers’ defensive end Melvin Ingram on an ill-advised shuffle pass. However, Burrow had the chops of a wily veteran in operating the two-minute drill which began on the Bengals’ 18-yard line> He calmly marched his team to the Chargers’ 3-yard line before settling for the 31-yard field goal after an offensive pass interference call. Burrow was also impressive with an audible at the line of scrimmage that resulted in a 23-yard designed quarterback draw that resulted in the first touchdown of his professional career.
There are few bright spots that Cleveland can take from their 38-6 thumping by the Ravens in Baltimore. Baker Mayfield completed only 21 of his 39 passes for only 189 yards. It was not an inspiring debut for new head coach Kevin Stefanski considering that the Freddy Kitchens-coached offense put up 40 points against the Baltimore defense on the road last September 29th when the Browns upset the Ravens by a 40-25 score. Cleveland believes they have the talent of a playoff team. An 0-2 start might be the match that lights the fire under this powder keg. The Browns ran the ball 27 times for 138 yards with Nick Chubb getting ten carries and Kareem Hunt getting another thirteen rushing attempts. Mayfield targeted Odell Beckham ten times but that resulted in only three catches for 22 yards. Mayfield reflected after the game: “Sometimes a wakeup call is pretty good for everybody — a nice punch in the mouth, and that is how we should take it." Placekicker Austin Seibert will not be getting a courtesy wake-up call with the Browns cutting him on Monday after he missed an extra point and a 40-yard field goal. He was replaced by the kicker he beat out in training camp, Cody Parker.
Injuries could play a significant role when assessing this game played on short rest. The Browns are banged up in their secondary with cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson out for that Ravens game before cornerback Robert Jackson departed with a finger injury. They then placed tight end David Njoku on injured reserve on Monday after he injured his knee in that game. Cincinnati is dealing with injuries on the defensive side of the ball as well with the most notable being defensive tackle Geno Atkins questionable with a shoulder.
These teams split their two meetings with the Browns winning at home as a 6.5-point favorite on December 8th by a 27-19 score (going over the 43.5 total) before the Bengals exacted revenge on December 29th with their 33-23 upset victory at home as a 2.5-point closing under (going over the 44 point total).
Cleveland opened at BookMaker
as an 8.5-point favorite with the total set at 46 but those numbers have been bet down with the Browns laying 5.5 points as of this writing, with the over/under at 44.
Kickoff is set for 8:20 PM ET on the NFL Network.