Cincinnati +6.5 at Cleveland
Many have the Bengals to finish dead last in the league this year, but this assertion may be a rush to judgement. Granted rookie QB Andy Dalton struggled in preseason action, but the amount of talented players on their roster is clearly being overlooked.
Dalton will be tossing to stud rookie wideout AJ Green, who many are hailing as the most complete receiver to enter the league in a decade. Then as a safety valve he has Jermaine Gresham, one of the emerging tight ends in the league who is expected to take the next step this year. Green will likely be matched up with stud sophomore Joe Haden, but his exceptional size and strength should give him a chance to excel in the red zone.
While Cedric Benson has a few miles on his legs, the Cleveland defence is not exactly potent. The Browns front four offers little in terms of strength, with rookie big man Phil Taylor offering the most imposing presence. Benson should be able to slash it up between the tackles and get over the century mark for the game.
Surely there must be a reason that the Browns are a 6.5 point favourite right? Well it is not exactly clear what Vegas had in mind when they were setting this line, but Cleveland does not seem to be stacked up on the offensive side of the ball either.
Colt McCoy is still adjusting to the NFL game, and opposing defences have had an entire year to figure out how to track down the diminutive pivot. He will be tossing to some combination of Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Greg Little and Brian Robiskie, not exactly a group of All-Pro's.
Peyton Hillis seems unlikely to tear apart the league as he did last year. He was a bowling ball heading down a mountain last year, but opposing defences will surely stack the box this year with their lack of threatening passing game.
The Bengals have a surprisingly good defence, on paper at least. Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap coming off the ends are both freak athletes. If they can get some early pressure on McCoy, it is sure to be a long game for him in the pocket. Leon Hall is an elite corner, and while Nate Clements has seen better days, he will not have much of a matchup to worry about on the weakside corner. Rey Maualuga is a beast in the middle, and will not back down from Mr. Hillis.
The Browns and Bengals are known to play close games, and there is little reason to believe that the Browns are poised to blow the Bengals out of the water in Week 1.
Take the Bengals and the points.