Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Thursday NFL pick: Bengals over Browns

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton signals a play in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Cleveland.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton signals a play in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Cleveland. AP

BROWNS (2-6) at BENGALS (7-0)

Line: CIN by 11.

Cote’s pick: CIN, 31-16.

TV: 8:25 p.m. Thursday, NFLN (airing in South Florida).

This division game kicking off NFL Week 9 figures as a riveting matchup only for Ohioans, people betting the game and those with fantasy-league involvement. Browns apparently have given up, considering they tried to trade star left tackle Joe Thomas to Denver this week, though the deal fell through. Now Josh McCown’s ribs hurt so Johnny Manziel starts at QB on Thursday. (Be careful what you wish for, Clevelanders.) The point spread seems big for a rivalry game, even with Cincinnati unbeaten, yet I see the ’Gals covering. Don’t trust Manziel, plus Earthtones’ secondary is hurting, with top corner Joe Haden and best safety Donte Whitner both expected out with concussions. Browns won at Cincy last year but that was only their second road win in past 11 in this series. Quick aside: Recent Cane Duke Johnson quietly is having a fairly productive rookie year for Clevers, with 33 catches and 510 scrimmage yards.

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