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NFL countdown: Bookmaker big on Bengals

This is the fourth in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 10 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

If you want to bet against the Cincinnati Bengals this season, come down to the Westgate.

Sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons likes the Bengals to go over their win total of 5½, so the Westgate has shaded the over to -140, offering a price of +120 on the under.

“I definitely do have an opinion,” he said. “I really like the Bengals this season.”

Cincinnati bottomed out last season at 2-14 and finally moved on from longtime quarterback Andy Dalton.

The Bengals were rewarded with the No. 1 pick in the draft and the right to select Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow, who put together one of the best seasons in college football history while leading the Tigers to the national title. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy while throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns with only six interceptions in a 15-0 season.

But it is the talent around Burrow that makes Salmons optimistic about the Bengals.

Star receiver A.J. Green is healthy after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. Wideouts Tyler Boyd and John Ross return, and Cincinnati took Clemson receiver Tee Higgins with the first pick of the second round. Also, Joe Mixon is back after running for 1,137 yards last season.

“They have weapons all over the field,” Salmons said. “… They have a ton of players coming back, and it really gives them a chance to jump up.”

Salmons also noted that, despite their record, the Bengals were competitive in most of their outings last season and essentially threw away three games with rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback.

One obstacle to success this season is the rugged AFC North. Baltimore had the best record in the NFL last season at 14-2 and is loaded again. Pittsburgh went 8-8 despite not having quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for almost the entire season, and Cleveland was the offseason darling last season before going 6-10.

Salmons said he believes the Bengals can win enough games outside the division to ensure they get to at least six victories.

Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito sounded a word of caution about expecting too much from Burrow in his rookie season.

He pointed to the struggles of recent highly drafted rookie quarterbacks such as Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota, Mitch Trubisky and Jameis Winston. That doesn’t mean Burrow won’t be a great quarterback, but he might not show it this season, he said.

“It’s awfully tough for a rookie quarterback in the league,” he said. “I’m anxious to see what he does.”

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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