The shift in the spread comes after the Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-14 on Monday Night Football. Cleveland has several key players battling injuries who may have limited snaps or not play at all in Week 18, including Baker Mayfield (shoulder), center J.C. Tretter (knee) and Myles Garrett (groin).
However, if the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos on Saturday, then the Bengals can’t earn the AFC’s 1 seed on Sunday, so there would be little-to-no reason to play all of their starters at Cleveland, at least for an entire game.
In what has been a crazy week in the Queen City, the Bengals will be heading to the playoffs as AFC North champs after a wild finish against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite the division being clinched, fans should fully expect the Bengals to come out looking to beat their in-state rival, especially after the outcome of the game earlier this season. You could make a strong case that it was the Bengals’ worst game of the season.
In that Week 9 matchup at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals continued to give the ball to the Browns through turnovers (two INTs and one fumble) but also had to recover three fumbles to not make the deficit worse.
Offensively, the Joe Burrow or Joe Mixon could never get fully rolling, and it seemed that a Browns defender was consistently in the backfield as Burrow took five sacks.
Defensively, Lou Anarumo’s unit had no answer for Baker Mayfield or Nick Chubb. Mayfield had 218 yards through the air on 21 attempts and two touchdowns. Chubb gashed the defense for 137 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns as well.
This game is setting up to be vastly different, though.
The Bengals have obviously already clinched a playoff berth, but the Browns have been knocked out of playoff contention after the results of Sunday’s games.
It may seem that both teams don’t have much to play for, but that is not the case, especially for Cincinnati.
With the win over the Chiefs, the Bengals are squarely in the mix for the top seed in the AFC. They will need a little help elsewhere across the league, but in these situations, you can only control what you can control. In this instance, it’s going to Cleveland and leaving with a win.
And let’s be honest, these Bengals players don’t want to lose the season series against this mediocre Browns squad.
Expect Zac Taylor to have his team ready to go out and end this spectacular season on a high note.