A couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t clear if Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow would be ready for Week 1 in Cleveland after suffering a calf injury very early in training camp. However, the former No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner returned to practice in limited fashion last week and practiced in full for the first time Wednesday, meaning he’ll be fine for the opener. Cincinnati was as low as -1 when it looked as if Burrow might sit but is back to -2.5. It never got to -3 and probably won’t. #CINvsCLE
There is a belief that the #RuleTheJungle will sign Burrow to an extension before Sunday that will make him the highest-paid QB in league history by average annual value, currently held by the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, who went No. 6 in the 2020 draft with Burrow going first. Burrow has the highest passer rating in NFL in the last two seasons despite his offensive line ranking bottom 5 in Pro Football Focus’ pass block grade in each season. He has taken a beating in his career sacks wise.
Cincinnati enters on an eight-game regular-season winning streak (7-1 ATS), tied for the longest in franchise history. But Burrow is 1-4 career against the Browns, his most career losses against any team with a whopping 18 sacks taken. He has lost both starts in Cleveland and the last QB to lose three straight at Cleveland was David Klingler from 1992-94 with Cincinnati. Burrow is just 1-2 in Week 1 in his career with four TDs and five picks. He is set at over-under 267.5 passing yards and 1.5 TDs for Sunday.
Cleveland likely will be without former Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, who is in the concussion protocol after getting hurt in the preseason finale. Why was he playing? The Browns are seeking back-to-back Week 1 wins for first time since 1993-94. They snapped an NFL-record 17-game winless streak in season openers last season.
Deshaun Watson will be Cleveland’s 19th different season-opening starting QB since 1999, the most in the NFL in that span. He is 0-3 career in Week 1, all with Houston. Watson last started a season opener in the 2020 Kickoff Game with the Texans in Kansas City and lost 34-20. The #DawgPound hasn’t won a home season opener since 2004.
The #Browns did win their last two games in 2022 as a home dog, including 32-13 over Cincinnati in Week 5. Cincinnati Pro Bowl receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the 2023 Offensive Player of the Year favorite, was out injured but is healthy currently.