Greg Cote's Thursday night NFL pick

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Quarterback Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass as he warms up before playing against the Los Angeles Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. - Bobby Ellis/Getty Images North America/TNS



BENGALS (0-1) at BROWNS (0-1)

Line: CLE by 6.

Cote’s pick: CLE 17-13.

TV: 8:20 p.m. Thursday, NFL.

The NFL spins this matchup by draping it in history: Two Ohio teams facing off on what the league considers its 100th birthday, tracing its origin to an organizational meeting held Sept. 17, 1920 at the Jordan & Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton. (Yes, I said Hupmobile). TV spins this game by trumpeting Joe Burrow vs. Baker Mayfield as two of the past three QBs to win a Heisman Trophy and be drafted No. 1 overall as they begin their long division rivalry. Greg Cote? He spins this as A Game Only An Ohioan Could Love — And Barely Then. The Bengals last won a playoff game in 1990 and the Browns in ’94, an astounding combined 56 seasons of irrelevance. The good news? Setting aside the 0.3% statistical probability of a tie, somebody gotta win! Give us Cleveland, where the very limited crowd of 6,000 allowed in will leave happy, or as happy as Browns fans can be, anyway. Burrow’s Bengals showed up in a 16-13 loss to Chargers in opener, denied overtime by a missed 31-yard field-goal attempt, and should keep this one inside the betting number. As Mayfield struggles to get comfy with his new offense, see Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt grinding out an Earthtones win, but on a night when points will be as rare as 2020 undecided voters.


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