Thursday Night Football Betting Preview

Bengals At Browns

Each week, TheLines will provide a daily betting breakdown and analysis for the upcoming Thursday Night Football game. We’ll look at the odds and see why they’re moving a certain way, along with breaking down the matchup and providing the week’s best prop bets.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns will face off at FirstEnergy Stadium for an AFC North showdown on Thursday, Sept. 17. The game will mark the 94th meeting in a series the Bengals lead 51-42. The most recent game between the teams unfolded in Week 17 of last season, with the Bengals recording a 33-23 victory that saw Cincinnati RB Joe Mixon rush for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

TNF betting odds and analysis


After each team’s respective Week 1 performances, this line has come down a full point on DK Sportsbook in favor of the Bengals. The movement partly reflects a confidence in first overall pick Joe Burrow’s ability to continue picking up the NFL game quickly despite his truncated offseason. Burrow looked solid against the savvy veteran defense of the Chargers in Week 1. In turn, the Browns’ Baker Mayfield arguably put together a performance more befitting of a rookie in his first in-game opportunity to run new head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense.

The projected total that falls just short of the mid-40s is somewhat surprising given the fact both defenses have proven porous in the recent times. Last year’s meetings between the two clubs finished with totals of 46 and 56 points. However, Cleveland has the previously suspended Myles Garrett back in the fold, while the Bengals appear to boast an improved front seven with the offseason additions of D.J. Reader and Josh Bynes. Both offenses ultimately produced a meager combined 19 points in Week 1, so the expectation here seems to be there will be enough inefficiency all the way around to cap overall scoring.

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Bengals – Browns game match-up

As alluded to earlier, Burrow did not look out of place whatsoever in his first NFL start. A late touchdown wiped off the board by penalty prevented him from helping Cincinnati pull off the upset against the Chargers. While Burrow didn’t officially throw a touchdown pass, he alertly ran one in from 23 yards out as part of a 46-yard rushing day. The successful return of WR A.J. Green after missing all of 2019 was also one of the game’s notable stories. The multi-time Pro Bowler posted a 5-51 line on a team-leading nine targets and would have notched the game-winning TD had he not been flagged for a controversial offensive pass interference penalty.

While the Bengals had a chance to at least send the game into OT until the very last play, the Browns were essentially out of their Week 1 contest by halftime. Cleveland looked as bad as it often did in 2019 under former head coach Freddie Kitchens. Mayfield’s 189-yard tally was a choppy one that featured just one touchdown pass and plenty of miscommunication or inaccurate throws. Of most concern was the third-year quarterback’s repeated inability to get the ball to presumptive No. 1 receiver Odell Beckham. The two connected on three occasions in 10 attempts for a scant 22 yards. To make matters worse, TE David Njoku, who’d been one of the few bright spots early with three receptions for 50 yards and a score, suffered an MCL sprain that knocked him out of the contest and will keep him sidelined into October, at minimum.

Perhaps the one silver lining was the team’s potent two-headed ground attack – RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 132 rushing yards on 23 carries. Both had runs of over 20 yards, and Hunt logged his highest number of rushing touches (13) in a Browns uniform yet.

This matchup sets up as one that appears to have the potential of either being a battle of two sluggish, inconsistent offenses, or, considering the potential of some of the skill players on either side, a higher-scoring affair than projected. On the Bengals side, Mixon certainly has to be lumped in with the likes of Burrow, Green and Tyler Boyd as a high-upside asset. As previously mentioned, he trampled Cleveland in last season’s finale. However, he was almost as good in the first meeting with them earlier in December, rushing for 146 yards and a TD on 23 carries.

For the Browns, Mayfield will be challenged to improve his ball security against a Bengals secondary that should ultimately be better than last season’s. Cincy picked Mayfield off five times over two meetings last season and limited him to a 45.1% completion rate, his lowest against any team by far. While Stefanski will undoubtedly look to get the passing game and OBJ going in particular, he’ll also do well to feed Chubb plenty – the star back averaged 5.3 yards per rush last season versus a Bengals defense that finished 32nd in the NFL with 148.9 rushing yards per game allowed.

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Bengals vs. Browns predictions

Thursday Night Football betting breakdown

The Bengals lead the all-time series with the Browns by a 51-42 margin. Despite last year’s aforementioned Week 17 loss, the Browns have won three of the past four games in the series, although prior to that stretch, they’d dropped seven straight games to Cincinnati.

The Bengals were 6-10 (37.5 percent) against the spread last regular season, including 4-3 (57.1 percent) as an away team. Cincinnati is 0-1 against the number thus far this season. Then, the Over was 7-9 (43.8 percent) in the Bengals’ games last regular season, including 2-5 (28.6 percent) in their away games. The Over is also 0-1 in Cincinnati’s games thus far this season.

The Browns were 5-10-1 (NFL-high 33.3 percent) against the spread last regular season, including 3-4-1 (42.9 percent) as a home team. Cleveland is 0-1 against the number thus far this season. Then, the Over was 8-8 in the Browns’ games last regular season, including 4-4 in their home games. The Over is also 0-1 in Cleveland’s games thus far this season.

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How to watch Thursday Night Football

The Thursday Night Football schedule is the most complex of the primetime NFL spots.

The first Thursday season opener doesn’t fall under the TNF title. Chiefs – Texans in Week 1 was broadcast on NBC at 8:20 p.m. Eastern. And, the three-game Thanksgiving slate in Week 13 will be carried by three different networks.

CBS gets the 12:30 p.m. ET Turkey Day game between the Texans and the Lions in Detroit. At 4:30 p.m. ET the Washington Football Team will play at Dallas on FOX. And in the nightcap, the Ravens will play at the Steelers. NBC will broadcast the game from Pittsburgh.

NFL Network will broadcast the games in Weeks 2, 3 and 4. Then, starting in Week 5 with the matchup of the Buccaneers vs. Bears, FOX NFL Network, and Amazon will simulcast the game.

Still with us? Each Thursday night game will begin at 8:20 p.m. Eastern, regardless of the network.

Games can be streamed on NFL Network, FOX Sports Go, Amazon Prime and Twitch. Additionally, NFL Network and FOX can be streamed on services such as Roku, PS4 and Xbox One.

Thursday Night Football betting tips

How to bet TNF like a sharp

Thursday Night Football condenses the practice week for coaches, decreases recovery time for players and limits opportunities for media members to uncover stories and create narratives. This unpredictability factor can help to level the sports-betting playing field.

Taking the most rested team is never a bad idea. You want the healthiest squad with the longest amount of preparation time since its last game.

Siding with the home team in what would otherwise be a pick’em doesn’t hurt, either. You want the team that’s spent the longest amount of time preparing in the proper city, not wasting what can be the better of a day traveling.

You want the healthiest side, as simple as that. Without a proper injury report, it can be tough to tell what level of health players will be at when gearing up to play in a big primetime spot. Don’t expect a player who left a game Sunday to return in elite form by Thursday. He’ll more than likely be a decoy.

Don’t fall into the public opinion trap of TNF always being a lousy game. It’s still one of only 16 games those two teams will play all year and most of them generally need to win. Coaches will do the best with what they have, and plenty of players (Hello, Nick Mullens!) have burst onto the scene with strong games while filling in for an injured starter.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does Thursday Night Football start?

Thursday Night Football will begin with the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season

How to stream Thursday Night Football?

TNF can be streamed live on NFL Network, FOX Sports Go, Amazon Prime and Twitch. NFL Network and FOX can also be streamed through services such as Roku, PS4 and Xbox One.

What is the highest-scoring Thursday Night Football game ever?

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers 41-39 in Week 3 of the 2017 campaign in the highest-scoring TNF game of all time.

Who are the TNF announcers?

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will return to broadcast TNF. Mike Pereira serves as the rules analyst with Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink working the sidelines. The same broadcast airs on FOX, NFL Network and Amazon.

Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer made history in 2018 as the first all-woman NFL broadcast team as an alternate stream for Amazon Prime viewers.

Who was the original Thursday Night Football broadcast crew?

The original TNF broadcast crew for NFL Network in 2006 was Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth.

Retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo memorably joined Jim Nantz for CBS’ final year of TNF coverage in 2017.

Who sings the Thursday Night Football theme song?

FOX and NFL Network air their own instrumental themes to begin the coverage, unlike the SNF and MNF primetime spots.