Week 9 Game Hub: CLE-CIN

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Week 9 Game Hub: CLE-CIN

Cleveland Browns (4-4, 4-4 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-3, 4-4), 1 p.m.

Brolley’s Browns Stats and Trends

  • These teams are 6-0-1 toward overs in the last seven meetings in this series.

  • Cleveland is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games.

  • Nick Chubb posted 16/61 rushing in his first game back after a two-week layoff, and his snap share (56%) remained unchanged even with Kareem Hunt (calf, IR) out of the lineup. D’Ernest Johnson still played a prominent role with a 31% snap share and 4/22/1 rushing and 1/7 receiving on three targets. The Bengals are giving up the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (68.4) and just 3.7 YPC to RBs this season.

  • Baker Mayfield returned to action last week, and completed 20/31 passes for 225 scoreless yards (7.3 YPA) in Cleveland’s ugly 15-10 loss against the Steelers in Week 8. Mayfield combined for 516/7 passing in two games against the Bengals last season, and they just allowed Mike White to finish with 405/3 passing in his first NFL start.

  • Jarvis Landry is the clear alpha receiver in this offense after seeing another 10 targets against Pittsburgh, which gives him 18 looks in his first two games back from his knee injury. Austin Hooper is the next closest player with eight targets in that span. Landry did crush the offense with two big drops and a lost fumble in their 10-point showing against the Steelers. Slot WRs Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios combined for 10/97/1 receiving against the Bengals last week.

  • Odell Beckham had fewer than 30 receiving yards in three of his last four games heading into Week 8, and it somehow got worse for him in Cleveland’s loss to the Steelers. He caught his only target for six yards despite seeing the second-highest snap share at the position (73%), and he’s now scored fewer than six FP in four of his last five games. OBJ is a shell of his old self as he currently plays through an AC joint injury, and the Browns chose to move on from him after excusing him from practice early in the week. Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) and Rashard Higgins will see bumps in playing time if OBJ is out of the lineup moving forward.

Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends

  • The Bengals followed up the NFL’s best win in Week 7 with the league’s worst loss in Week 8.

  • The Bengals have covered three straight games in this series and in eight of the last 10 meetings in this series over the last five years.

  • Cincy is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games as a favorite.

  • The Bengals are 5-2 toward unders in their last seven games.

  • Joe Burrow has posted 20+ FP in five straight games and he’s thrown for multiple TDs in every game this season. Burrow has thrown for exactly three scores in three straight games, but he’s also thrown an INT in four straight contests with nine picks overall. Burrow threw for three TDs in both games against the Browns last season with 722 total passing yards.

  • Ja’Marr Chase truly is special as he came through for fantasy even with the Jets keeping him in check last week. He managed a season-low 32 yards on three catches and nine targets, but he salvaged his day with a goal-line touchdown. He’s now posted 13+ FP in every game this season. Diontae Johnson posted 6/98 receiving in this matchup last week, and the Browns are allowing 13.8 YPR to WRs this season.

  • Tee Higgins hasn’t scored in his first four games back from a shoulder injury after scoring in his first two games of the season. He had topped out at just 62 yards in an individual game through six games, and he finally broke through with 4/97 receiving on six targets last week. Chase Claypool managed 4/45 receiving in this matchup last week

  • Tyler Boyd showed a pulse for the first time since Week 4, posting 5/69/1 receiving on eight targets after managing just 9/70 receiving on 15 targets in his previous three games. The Browns are middle of the pack with 12.4 catches per game allowed to WRs.

  • C.J. Uzomah failed to find the end zone last week after scoring four TDs in a four-game span in Weeks 4-7, but he has 3+ catches in four of his last five games. He also ran a route on a promising 86% of his snaps. Pat Freiermuth posted 4/44/1 receiving in this matchup last week.

  • Joe Mixon is coming off his third game with 25+ FP this season after posting 14/33/1 rushing and 4/58/1 receiving against the Jets last week, and he saw his best snap share (77%) since Week 2. Mixon’s receiving production continues to be all over the map with 4+ catches in three games and one or fewer catches in his other five contests. Mixon hung 16/46 rushing and 4/40 receiving in his lone matchup against the Browns last season.

Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies

Browns

Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.7 (29th)

Plays per game: 68.1 (13th)

Pass: 53.6% (30th) | Run: 46.4% (3rd)

Bengals

Pace: 30.6 (28th)

Plays per game: 62.5 (30th)

Pass: 59.5% (18th) | Run: 40.5% (15th)

Pace Points

This is the worst game of the week by a mile in adjusted combined pace between these two offenses that are bottom-5 in seconds spent in between plays. In fact, neither the Browns or Bengals play faster when they’re trailing – which is against the NFL trend. On average, offenses play about 2 seconds faster when they’re behind as opposed to leading. Not here! The Bengals are 32nd in pace when trailing while the Browns rank 29th. No matter which way you slice it, this is an awful game from a volume perspective.

The one thing that could save this game from being zapped for fantasy is the Bengals coming out and throwing the ball a ton. Cincy is 65.6% pass-heavy when the game is within a score, which is the seventh-highest rate. If they can push the pace on the scoreboard and force the Browns to play catch-up, we have a narrow pathway for this game to a shootout. I’m not optimistic, though, especially with Baker Mayfield playing through a brutal shoulder injury. Cleveland has scored 17 or fewer points in four of their last 5 games.

Huber’s Key Matchup Notes

NOTE: Each week, Huber’s Key Matchup Notes in the Fantasy Points Game Hubs are little snippets from Wes Huber’s industry-best, comprehensive Advanced Matchups bible. A DFS-slanted article typically available to only our Premium Subscribers, we are making this week’s edition FREE to coincide with our midseason price drop, with rates reduced by 50%. There is still plenty of time to get on board!

Outside of their beatdown at the hands of Arizona in Week 6, it is really surprising to see Cleveland sitting at 4-4, and with their playoff chances dropping below 50%. The Browns boast an elite O-line, pair of RBs, and defense. The major question marks are with Baker Mayfield in matchups opposed by zone-heavy defenses and at wideout, in general. Regardless, in spite of his slow start, it was very refreshing to see Odell Beckham Jr. playing football with his mouth closed rather than accosting the Cleveland coaching staff with the juvenile outbursts we’ve seen in the past. At least in my eyes, all of that accrued respect for OBJ evaporated when his father took to social media to show us where his son got his personality:

{{TWITTER|

Odell Beckham Jr. was excused from practice today; Browns are discussing the WR's future with his agent, per @Jake_Trotter.https://t.co/rkZbof7Kpc

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 3, 2021

}}

Should we really care that Beckham has played his last game for the Browns? The soon-to-be 29-year-old’s play has followed a precipitous decline since the 2016 season.

Moving on to a detail relevant to Week 9, one man’s loss is another man’s opportunity. Over the final five games last season after Beckham tore his ACL, Jarvis Landry averaged 19.2 FPG. The outlook may not be great for Mayfield this week, but Landry could see as many targets as he can handle on Sunday.

The Bengals are authorizing the 10th-most FPG to WRs that’s built from reception- and yardage-heavy stock. Mike Hilton will be one of the primary defenders tasked with defending Landry. He’s distributing 0.94 YPCS (10th), 0.23 FP/CS (16th), 0.10 AY/CS (fifth), and a 100.9 TPR (24th). Finally, Cincinnati has been more vulnerable to receivers attacking from the interior, relenting the 10th-most FPG (21.4).

For whatever reason, HC/play caller Zac Taylor chose not to attack the most vulnerable run defense in the NFL against the Jets last week. And it likely cost him the game. After near 50/50 carry share splits between Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine in Weeks 5 and 7 — separated by Perine missing Week 6 with COVID-19, Mixon took every RB carry last week. Perine was relegated to 14 offensive snaps, two targets.

Mixon will not have the luxury of facing New York this week. The Browns are closing down opposing run games to the third-fewest rushing YPG (84.8), second-fewest YPC (3.5), fifth-lowest rushing first down rate (21.8%), and third-lowest 20-plus run rate (0.52%). The Dawg Pound is handing only 19.0 FPG to RB units (fifth-fewest).

Dolan’s Vantage Points

I mean, the Browns are an abysmal fantasy team — the only options on the roster for most season-long enthusiasts are Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry — so it’s clear where the focus will be this week, following the Odell Beckham Sr. — yes, the father — business, with OBS (?) clearly trying to force the Browns’ hand before the trade deadline.

Frankly, this makes Odell Beckham more appealing for fantasy, in just the completely random chance he gets picked up somewhere and shows signs of life. But it’s obviously over in Cleveland for multiple reasons, and there really are few reasons to think this isn’t a symptom of a bigger problem, given the same stuff happened with the Giants. Indeed, Beckham has been open multiple times and has been missed this year. That’s a fact. But I think there’s also a reason this pall has followed OBJ around for half a decade.

At least Landry is back as the alpha receiver here, because Baker Mayfield will get him the ball, but you can’t trust anyone else.

By the way, while you have to play Chubb over D’Ernest Johnson — Chubb had 16 carries to Johnson’s 4 (one of which was a TD) — note that Chubb ran just one more route (13) than did Johnson (12). But Johnson does have some low-end FLEX appeal as a weak Kareem Hunt facsimile.

If you want to trust Baker given the numbers he posted against Cincy last year, and what just happened with Mike White, be my guest.

Anyway, the Bengals are coming off an awful loss to the Jets on the heels of a potential season-defining win against the Ravens, but from a fantasy perspective, I love this team.

Tyler Boyd finally showed some signs of life last week, but this is still a passing game dominated by Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. Notable was Higgins’ usage in Week 8 — he finally got some downfield targets in Week 8. Three of his 6 targets traveled 15+ air yards vs. the Jets. (Higgins has just 8 such targets on the year overall, while Chase has 20.) The Browns have given up just 20 receptions of 15 or more air yards, tied for 10th-fewest in the NFL, and they could get CB Denzel Ward (hamstring) back this week.

TE CJ Uzomah continues to be a viable streamer despite a disappointing Week 8, and RB Joe Mixon had promising usage in Week 8 as well — this past week, Mixon was fourth among all RBs in snap rate (77%) and ran 23 routes to Samaje Perine’s 11. The Browns have given up the fifth-fewest FPG to the RB position this year, but Mixon is a slam-dunk RB1 given the state of the position.

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