NFL betting: 2 picks and a parlay for 'Monday Night Football'

"Monday Night Football" features an AFC North matchup between two teams whose seasons are heading in opposite directions. The Cincinnati Bengals travel to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland to face the Browns. Cleveland has lost four straight games, including last week's 23-20 loss to Baltimore, and desperately needs a win before a two-game road trip where it will take on Miami and Buffalo.

After an 0-2 start, the Bengals have rallied to win four of their last five games. Cincinnati's coming off its most dominant performance of the season, a 35-17 win over Atlanta, and a victory tonight will keep them tied with the Ravens for a share of the AFC North lead. Unfortunately, last week's win came at a high cost, as Bengals QB Joe Burrow lost his biggest weapon. His favorite target, WR Ja'Marr Chase, injured his hip, forcing him out for the next few weeks. Does a depleted Bengals offense open the door for a Browns upset? Here's a look at three ways I approached betting tonight's game at BetMGM.

Cleveland Browns (+3.5)

If I learned anything about the Cincinnati Bengals this year, they could be a little late to the party when it comes to making adjustments. Zac Taylor and his staff appeared to be last to discover they were tipping off running plays by formation early in the season. The Browns defense has been brutal this season (28th in pass DVOA), but it's catching Cincinnati at the perfect time. It's overly optimistic to expect Burrow to move on seamlessly without his biggest playmaker, especially considering Browns defensive end Myles Garrett will be hunting him down. Protection has been a continued problem for Burrow, who has suffered more sacks than every quarterback in the league except for Justin Fields.

I think the Cleveland defense gives an inspired effort, and the Browns offense, behind Nick Chubb, can keep this competitive. The Bengals are 0-2 against the AFC North this season. More importantly, those two games were decided by only two and three points. We are capturing the key number of 3 with a divisional dog, at home, on "Monday Night Football." I will take a desperate Browns team to cover.

Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns runs through the Cincinnati Bengals defense during a game on Jan. 9, 2022. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns runs through the Cincinnati Bengals defense during a game on Jan. 9, 2022. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Browns-Bengals Under 45

Surprisingly, the Browns are 5-2 to the over, while the Bengals have been in more low-scoring games. Cincinnati started the season by hitting the under in five straight games before the offense began to click. It's important to note the total at 45 is in line with the Bengals' average closing total on the season (45.6). Considering they are facing a below-average defense, the market agrees we should expect to see some regression from Cincinnati's offense.

Under Brissett, Cleveland has to methodically work its way down the field with short passes and a strong running game. While the Bengals have more big-play potential, they also run plays at the eighth-slowest pace in the league. As a result, both teams chew up the clock in different ways. Despite their defensive flaws, the Browns' two divisional games finished with 43 and 46 combined points, and the latter is a little deceiving. Cleveland's 29-17 win over the Steelers ended with a Denzel Ward fumble recovery in the end zone on the game's last play. The score was 16-14 heading into the last quarter. In a prime-time game, with a lot on the line for both teams, I am betting we see conservative play on both sides. Bet the under 45.

One-game parlay +650

This parlay is the perfect way to take advantage of how the Browns should successfully attack the Bengals defense. Per Clevanalytics, Nick Chubb has averaged 7.1 yards per carry in his last three games against the Bengals. Chubb's success on the ground should allow Brissett enough time to move the chains through the air and keep Cincy's pass rush off balance. That's where Donovan Peoples-Jones steps in. The third-year receiver has developed into a reliable target and averaged 66.5 yards in his last four games. So 30+ receiving yards tonight is a modest ask. I also feel confident with Joe Mixon as our final leg, considering he has grabbed at least three receptions in every game this season.

Stats provided by pff.com, clevanalytics.com, rbsdm, teamrankings.com