Kickoff Sunday, Jan 9th 1:00pm Eastern

Bengals (
15.75) at

Browns (
22.25)

Over/Under 38.0

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Notes

Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
10th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per carry
Browns Run O
1st DVOA/4th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
14th DVOA/26th Yards allowed per pass
Browns Pass O
8th DVOA/27th Yards per pass
Browns Run D
20th DVOA/12th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
29th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Browns Pass D
24th DVOA/5th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
29th DVOA/7th Yards per pass

Game Overview ::

By hilow >>
  • The Bengals have seven players currently on the league’s COVID list, most notably Joe Mixon; five players have yet to practice this week, with reports out of Cincinnati indicating that key players are likely to rest this week (quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon amongst them).
  • Running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Dexter Williams, and defensive tackle Malik Jackson are currently on the COVID list for the Browns; tight end David Njoku and cornerback Denzel Ward have yet to practice this week, while quarterback Baker Mayfield was placed on IR earlier this week.
  • Reports out of Cincinnati indicate the team will rest key players this week, but it remains to be seen who will be inactive on game day.

How CINCINNATI Will Try To Win ::

The Bengals can finish the season anywhere from the one-seed to the four-seed, and while we don’t currently know how head coach Zac Taylor will approach his personnel decisions this week, we have to assume that the game plan and strategy will be built to maximize the players he has on the field. Taylor is one of the top offensive minds in the league and has shifted the focus of this team throughout the season to maximize his team’s potential. Here’s what we know:

  • Joe Mixon was placed in the league’s COVID protocol on Wednesday and will miss this game.
  • Reports from Bengals beat writers convey a message of caution relating to resting key players.
  • The Bengals need a loss by the Chiefs and Titans to secure the one-seed.
  • The Chiefs play on Saturday, likely influencing personnel decisions for the Bengals.
  • The Titans play at the same time as the Bengals on Sunday.

With those pieces in mind, we really have no clue how Taylor is going to approach this game, but I would contend that his decisions will be heavily influenced by what the Chiefs do on Saturday. Either way, expect max effort from whatever players are active on Sunday. The Bengals have been a highly adaptable team this year, as evidenced by their rush-pass splits against various opponents this season. Against a Cleveland defense better against the pass than the run, we should expect a heavier dose of the ground game here.

Joe Mixon has seen snap rates ranging from 58% to 82% in the seven games since the team’s Week 10 bye. Behind Mixon on the depth chart are Samaje Perine, Chris Evans, and Trayveon Williams, who are all likely to be active without Mixon. The only other game where Mixon was limited this season was Week 5 against the Packers, a game in which Perine handled six times more snaps than Evans, and we have to assume Perine would step into a similar role to what Mixon has exhibited this season. That means 20-22 running back opportunities are the likeliest range of outcomes for Perine here, with Evans likely landing in the six to 10 opportunity range. The matchup on the ground yields a below-average 4.215 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Browns defense allowing 22.6 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.

The pass game carries a higher rate of unknowns than the ground game does for the Bengals, as current reports are that Burrow and his primary pass-catchers are likely to sit. We’re going to explore the rest of this write-up leaving out any names and just dive into the pure matchup and how things set up for whichever receivers are active. Cleveland ranks in the middle of the pack in completion rate allowed at 64.35%, have held their opposition to the fifth-lowest yards per completion at 9.5, but have allowed 1.8 pass touchdowns per game (24th in the league). Joe Woods’ heavy zone defense utilizes primarily Cover-2 and Cover-3 zone concepts designed to force teams underneath. This has come to fruition as the team ranks top ten in aDOT forced (10th) and total air yards (fourth) while ranking middle of the pack in YAC allowed. Consider the matchup a slight boost to the more moderate aDOT pass-catchers from the Bengals.

How cleveland Will Try To Win ::

Cleveland would like nothing more than to end another disappointing season with a statement win. The problem is they will be playing with a backup quarterback and injuries in the secondary. Considering what we know about this team, expect a heavy reliance on the ground game behind the league’s second-ranked run-blocking offensive line for as long as possible.

Kareem Hunt continues his journey back from an ankle injury and is currently listed as questionable for Sunday. Curiously enough, we haven’t seen a drastic increase to Nick Chubb’s snap rate with Hunt out of the lineup this year, with the team instead electing to give D’Ernest Johnson (who is currently on the COVID list) and Demetric Felton increased run. We should tentatively expect more of the same here, putting a hard cap on Chubb’s expected range of opportunities (21-23 opportunities in three of the Browns last four games). The matchup on the ground yields an average 4.345 net-adjusted line yards metric against the pass-funnel nature of the Bengals defense. The Bengals have allowed 24.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields this season.

Case Keenum has been named the starter for the Browns this week, whose 6.4 intended air yards per pass attempt value would rank second to last in the league, just ahead of the 6.3 value for Jared Goff. That means we should expect a heavier dose of Jarvis Landry and the tight ends through the air. The issue for the Browns is that the Bengals defense is built to clog the middle of the field and take away higher probability passing, instead almost daring teams to throw deep against them. Not good, Bob. Expect Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, and Anthony Schwartz to fill the remaining wide receiver snaps, and all three of David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant to see snaps at tight end, assuming Njoku plays. Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant are in a route on only 41% and 39% of their snaps that come on pass plays, so the upside remains limited to touchdown equity.

Likeliest Game Flow :: 

There really is no telling what the likeliest game flow is here outside of the fact that we should expect a run-heavy approach from each team, making this game unlikely to provide team-based upside. As such, the most optimal way of attacking this spot is to utilize targeted one-offs or completely stay away. Basically, there isn’t much in this one to provide enough of a spark to make team stacks and full game stacks viable. Expect a slow-paced, run-heavy game environment with a more conservative approach from each team.

Scenarios ::

  • Although the Bengals are technically still alive for the one-seed in the AFC, they would need to win while both the Titans and Chiefs lose.
  • The Bengals can only fall as far as the four-seed based on having already locked up the AFC North.
  • The latter of those two situations, when paired with the numerous nagging injuries and COVID issues, is likely the driving force behind the decision to rest key starters this week for the Bengals; they know they are hosting a home playoff game in the Wildcard Round regardless of the outcome this week.
  • The Browns were eliminated from postseason contention two weeks ago.

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DFS+ Interpretation ::

By Alex88 >>

OVERVIEW

  • CIN has clinched the AFC North but their chances of the 1 seed are just 4%, per ESPN’s FPI
  • CLE has nothing to play for
  • Now that CIN has announced that multiple starters, including Joe Burrow, will miss the game, the Vegas total is the second lowest of Week 18
  • CIN’s implied total of 16 is the fourth lowest
  • CIN’s final score in the past six games: 41 // 22 // 23 // 15 // 41 // 34
  • Their opponents’: 10 // 41 // 26 // 10 // 21 // 31
  • CLE’s final score in the past six games: 13 // 10 // 24 // 14 // 22 // 14
  • Their opponents’: 10 // 16 // 22 // 16 // 24 // 26
  • CLE ranks sixth in red zone TD rate on offense (63%)
  • Their defense allows the sixth highest rate of red zone TDs (66%)
  • CLE averages the eighth fewest offensive plays per game (61.8)

Brandon Allen

  • Allen started five games for CIN last season, after Burrow was lost to injury
  • He finished 40th in PFF passing grade
  • Stat lines: Week 12 vs. NYG 17/29:136:1:1 // Week 13 @ MIA 11/19:153:1:1 // Week 14 vs. DAL 27/36:217:1:0 // Week 16 @ HOU 29/37:371:2:0 // Week 17 vs. BAL 6/21:48:0:2
  • CLE ranks 10th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (17.8)
  • Three opposing QBs have scored 4x Allen’s Week 18 DK salary ($5,100) vs. CLE: Kyler Murray 25.76 // Patrick Mahomes 36.28 // Justin Herbert 45.82

CIN Passing Attack

  • Tied for second in 11 personnel usage rate (76%, league average is 60%)
  • Snap share: Ja’Marr Chase 89.4% // CJ Uzomah 76.8% // Tee Higgins 68% // Tyler Boyd 77.2%
  • Target share: Chase 23.6% // Higgins 20.9% // Boyd 17.9% // Uzomah 12%
  • Among qualified WRs, Chase ranks 20th in target share, seventh in air yard market share, and 15th in WOPR (per Koalaty Stats)
  • His 19.8 DK ppg ranks fifth
  • HC Zach Taylor said that Ja’Marr Chase may “potentially” play in Week 18
  • He needs just 45 yards for the single-season rookie record
  • After producing the highest DK score this season, and one of the best of all time, Chase’s DK salary rose $700 to $8,300
  • He’s scored 4x that salary twice: 37.1 @ BAL in Week 7 // 58.6 vs. KC in Week 17
  • Among qualified WRs, Higgins ranks eighth in air yard market share and 14th in WOPR
  • His $7,200 Week 18 DK salary is a season and career high
  • He’s scored 4x that salary twice: 31.8 vs. LAC in Week 13 // 46.4 vs. BAL in Week 16
  • Boyd’s Week 18 DK salary ($5,600) is a season high
  • He’s scored 20+ DK pts just twice: 20.6 @ DAL in Week 15 // 23.8 vs. JAX in Week 4
  • CLE ranks 10th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (34.2)
  • Notable opposing WR scores: Rashod Bateman 20.3 // Justin Jefferson 20.4 // DeAndre Hopkins 20.5 // Brandin Cooks 22.8 // Kendrick Bourne 24.1 // Davante Adams 36.4 // Mike Williams 39.5 // Tyreek Hill 40.1
  • Uzomah is averaging 3.9 targets per game
  • He’s scored double digit DK pts three times: 10.5 @ DET in Week 6 // 24.1 @ BAL in Week 7 // 26.5 vs. JAX in Week 4

CIN RBs

  • Snap share: Joe Mixon 66.7% // Samaje Perine 26.4% // Chris Evans 6.2%
  • Target share: Mixon 9.1% // Perine 5.9% // Evans 2.3%
  • Touches per game: Mixon 20.9 // Perine 5.5 // Evans 1.6
  • Mixon tested positive for COVID and is out this week
  • In Week 5 vs. GB, Mixon left early
  • Perine ran 11 times for 59 yards and caught four of his five targets for 24 yards and 1 TD
  • CLE ranks 13th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (22.4)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: Najee Harris 21 // D’Andre Swift 25.6 // Joe Mixon 28 // Rhamondre Stevenson 30.4 // Harris 32.6 // Austin Ekeler 33.9

Case Keenum

  • Ranks 56th in PFF passing grade
  • Made one start as a Brown, vs. DEN in Week 7
  • Stat line: 21/33:199:1:0
  • CIN ranks 22nd in DK ppg allowed to QBs (19.2)
  • Notable opposing QB scores: Jimmy G 20.14 // Mahomes 20.86 // Lamar Jackson 23.08 // Josh Johnson 23.16 // Aaron Rodgers 23.76 // Kirk Cousins 25.04 // Justin Herbert 29.28 // Michael White 31.1

CLE Passing Attack

  • Snap share: Austin Hooper 64.9% // Jarvis Landry 64.6% // DPJ 62.1% // Njoku 60.6% // Rashard Higgins 48.9% // Harrison Bryant 35.4%
  • Target share: Landry 15.9% // Hooper 12.3% // DPJ 10.9% // Njoku 10.3% // Higgins 9.5% // Bryant 5%
  • Landry averages 7.2 targets per game
  • He’s yet to score 20 DK pts
  • DPJ’s target counts in the last four weeks: 7 // 8 // 6 // 5
  • Stat lines: 5:90:0 // 4:48:0 // 1:5:0 // 3:76:0
  • He’s scored 15+ DK pts twice: 16.6 @ CIN in Week 9 // 29.1 vs. ARI in Week 6
  • Higgins has yet to hit 12 DK pts
  • CIN ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to WRs (35.4)
  • Just three opposing WRs have scored 20+ DK pts vs. CIN: Keenan Allen 22.4 // Adam Thielen 30.2 // Davante Adams 40.6
  • Njoku hasn’t practiced all week and is likely out
  • Hooper’s stat lines from his two games of double digit DK pts: Week 10 @ NE 4/5:25:1 // Week 13 vs. BAL 5/7:30:1
  • Bryant has yet to score double digit DK pts
  • CIN ranks 29th in DK ppg allowed to TEs (16)
  • Notable opposing TE scores: TJ Hockenson 15.4 // Darren Waller 21.6 // Mark Andrews 29.5 // George Kittle 37.1

CLE RBs

  • Snap share: Nick Chubb 44.8% // Kareem Hunt 32.1% // D’Ernest Johnson 27.3%
  • Target share: Hunt 5.4% // Johnson 4.8% // Chubb 4.8%
  • Touches per game: Chubb 18.3 // Hunt 12.5 // Johnson 5.8
  • Chubb saw just 12 snaps in Week 17 and has been limited for two straight days of practice
  • Johnson is currently on the COVID list but has a chance to play
  • Hunt hasn’t played since Week 14 (in which he lasted four snaps), has been on the COVID list recently, and has been limited for two straight days of practice
  • CIN ranks 20th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (24.4)
  • Notable opposing RB scores: James Robinson 20.6 // Dalvin Cook 21.4 // Darrel Williams 25.7 // Najee Harris 31.2 // Michael Carter 32.2 // Nick Chubb 33.3