Johnny Manziel could be in line to make his second start of the season when the Cleveland Browns visit the unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night in an AFC North matchup. Browns starting quarterback Josh McCown on Tuesday told reporters he was having trouble sleeping and breathing while dealing with a painful rib injury.
“I guess as we move forward we’ll see how that goes,” McCown said. “I’m going to prepare and do everything that I can, like I’ve told you the last few weeks, to be ready to play. So that’s my mindset.” If Manziel does get the call, he’ll have to erase the memory of his first career start against the Bengals last December, when he was intercepted twice and threw for 80 yards in a 30-0 drubbing. The Bengals are among four unbeaten teams in the league and are off to the best start in franchise history after rallying for a 16-10 victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday to open a 3 1/2-game lead atop the division. “We’re playing for something greater than being 7-0,” Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green said. “We’re trying to win a championship.”
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network.
LINE HISTORY: The Bengals opened as 10.5-point home favorites and have been bet up slightly to the current number of -11. The total has been bet down slight, going from the opening number of 46 to 45.5.
Browns – LB C. RObertson (probable Thursday, ankle), LB N. Orchard (probable Thursday, shoulder), DB T. Gipson (probable Thursday, ankle), DB C. Gaines (questionable Thursday, hamstring), DB J. Poyer (doubtful Thursday, shoulder), WR A. Hawkins (doubtful Thursday, concussion), WR B. Hartline (doubtful Thursday, concussion), QB J. McCown (out Thursday, ribs), DB D. Whitner (out Thursday, concussion), CB J. Haden (out indefinitely, concussion).
Bengals – DE C. Dunlap (questionable Thursday, shoulder), DT M. Hardison (questionable Thursday, knee), LB R. Maualuga (questionable Thursday, calf), T. A Smith (out Thursday, concussion).
WEATHER REPORT: It will be mostly cloudy at kickoff, but there will be an increasing chance of rain as the might rolls along. Temperatures will be in the mid 60’s with a six mile per hour wind blowing towards the northwest end zone.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Browns (+4) – Bengals (-6.5) + home field (-3) = Bengals -13.5
ABOUT THE BROWNS (2-6, 4-4 ATS, 7-1 O/U): McCown threw three first-half touchdowns passes last week to spark his team to a 20-7 lead before Cleveland surrendered 27 unanswered points in a 34-20 setback to Arizona to extend its losing streak to three games. The run game has ground to a halt in the past two weeks as Isaiah Crowell was held to 14 yards on 10 carries versus the Cardinals after rushing for only nine yards on eight carries in the previous game versus St. Louis. Tight end Gary Barnidge has hauled in six scoring passes in the last six games while catching at least six passes five times in that span.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (7-0, 6-0-1 ATS, 5-2 O/U): Dalton had his worst performance of the season last week, throwing multiple interceptions for the first time and posting a QB rating of 64.7, but he regrouped to throw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Green with just under three minutes to play. Green registered a season-high 11 receptions for 118 yards and his first scoring pass in four games to offset a ground game that was held to 78 yards. Vontaze Burfict had five tackles in his season debut and could see a heavy workload with fellow linebacker Rey Maualuga dealing with a calf injury.
* Underdog is 13-2-1 ATS in their last 16 meetings.
* Over is 4-1 in the Bengals last five home games.
* Over is 6-0 in the Browns last six versus the AFC.
* Bengals 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is backing the dog in this AFC North matchup, with 54.72 percent of wagers backing the Browns.