MNF Player Props: Battle of Ohio Will Feature the Ground Game

A pair of AFC North teams renew their rivalry in Cleveland as the Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. Bitter rivals since the AFC Central days, less than 200 miles separate these two Ohio cities, so there is no love lost between the Interstate 71 foes.

While the Browns are just trying to tread water and stay afloat until offseason franchise quarterback acquisition Deshaun Watson returns, the Bengals are hoping to shake off their early season Super Bowl hangover. Until Watson returns, the Browns are better served to keep the ball on the ground, while a banged-up Cincinnati air attack should lean to the run.

All odds and props are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

WR Amari Cooper UNDER 52.5 Receiving Yards (-110)

Not only did Cleveland bring in big-time quarterback Deshaun Watson, but they also added a weapon the former Houston Texan could utilize and will, in time. Until then, Amari Cooper has to settle for passes from career-backup Jacoby Brissett.

Consistency has been a problem for the Browns’ passing game under Brissett. Cleveland ranks in the bottom ten in passing, and it’s been a roller coaster year for Amari. The former Cowboy has a pair of 100-yard games but also has a couple of outings where he failed to reach 20 yards. Lean toward the latter type of performance against a solid Bengals secondary. 

Cincy ranks sixth in receiving yards allowed, giving up just 213.3 per game. They’ve only had six touchdown passes thrown against them, the third-best mark in the NFL this year. While the orange and black don’t have a ton of sacks, they rank in the top three in QB knockdowns and knockdown percentage, so Brissett will be under pressure all night.

Cleveland is a ground team, as exhibited by their 163 rush yards per game, third-most in football, while the Bengals are in the lower half of the league defending the run. All signs point to the Browns keeping the ball in the hands of their running backs and out of the air, so roll with Cooper’s UNDER.

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RB Joe Mixon OVER 65.5 Rushing Yards (-110) 

Like Cleveland, the Bengals should also look toward the ground game. As good as the Browns are at running the ball, they are equally bad at stopping it. Cleveland has given up over 135 rushing yards weekly on a 4.7 yards-per-carry clip. Their 13 TDs allowed is one off the league high.

While the Bengals have been a pass-first offense, ranking fourth in the league in yards through the air, a massive part of that attack will not suit up on Monday. Ja’Marr Chase and his 600-plus yards are expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a hip fracture and torn labrum.

With Joe Burrow’s former LSU teammate and favorite target out, the 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year will have to look to give the ball to someone else. That someone else should be his running back, Joe Mixon.

The workhorse back has shaken off a slow start and shown he can be the focus of the offense. Always more of a volume back than a high yards-per-carry guy, Mixon has seen games of 24 and 27 carries this year, and it’s that run-heavy gameplan that should be deployed tonight against the Browns. 

It also doesn’t hurt that Mixon has averaged 89.8 yards against Cleveland over eight career games. That mark is Mixon’s best, having played a minimum of four games against any NFL team.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Mixon Anytime Touchdown Scorer (-120), Nick Chubb Anytime Touchdown Scorer (-120), Jacoby Brissett UNDER 215.5 Passing Yards (-113), Joe Burrow UNDER 263.5 Passing Yards (-113)