Last updated: December 27th at 1:45pm ET
Team Totals: Browns 23, Bengals 20.5
This is a potential lie-down spot for the visiting Browns, whose playoff hopes were dashed in last week’s home loss to Baltimore and whose incessant infighting bodes poorly for Cleveland’s likelihood of a positive finish. In-over-his-head coach Freddie Kitchens is almost certainly on his way out, while the motivations of Odell Beckham (groin, illness) and Jarvis Landry (hip) are in major doubt as they plan for offseason surgeries. Strangely, David Njoku was a healthy scratch in each of the last two weeks. Even against the lowly Bengals, the only trustworthy Browns DFS options look to be Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb enters Week 17 with a 92-yard lead on Christian McCaffrey for the league’s rushing title, while Hunt maintains fresh legs on the heels of a low-usage half-season and is a good bet for double-digit touches.
Yet the strongest box-score bets in Browns-Bengals are on Cincy’s side, beginning with Joe Mixon, who ineffectively braved a debilitating illness in last week’s loss to Miami en route to 73 scoreless yards on 23 touches. Back to 100% this week, Mixon should tee off on Cleveland’s lifeless run defense, which enemy backs throttled for consecutive rushing lines of 23/140/1 (Ravens), 25/143/4 (Cardinals), and 27/161/1 (these same Bengals) in Weeks 14-16. Mixon’s persistent underutilization in the passing game remains frustrating, but he is positioned perfectly to run roughshod on the Browns.
Tyler Boyd is Cincinnati’s next-best fantasy bet against Cleveland’s leaky slot coverage between stingy perimeter CBs Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Boyd ranks top ten in targets over the past five weeks (47), and only 12 NFL wide receivers have more receiving yards (389) during that span. John Ross reemerged as a near every-down player against the Dolphins, drawing 13 targets on 79% of the snaps. He’ll have to deal with Ward and Williams more so than Boyd, but Ross has the requisite speed to blow by cornerbacks of any caliber. In the final game of his contract year, Tyler Eifert is also worth a long look in DFS tournaments. Albeit in a game that went into overtime, Eifert ran a season-high 50 pass routes and logged his second-highest target count (8) and playing-time clip (63%) of the year in last week’s loss to Miami. The Browns have allowed the NFL’s sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Browns 17