By Mark Horning
For the second week in a row, the Cleveland Browns will face an opponent that has only two wins to their credit this season. The Cincinnati Bengals are struggling and have suffered losses to the Steelers, Broncos, Cowboys and, this past Sunday, to the Patriots. Just like the Browns, the Bengals are having difficulty finishing their games. Plagued by crucial errors and penalties at critical points of the game, they share the basement of the AFC North division with Cleveland.
On offense, quarterback Andy Dalton’s ability to make plays outside the pocket has never looked better. Going against a troubled Cleveland secondary may make for a long day for Cleveland at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals may also be shopping for a center, as Russell Bodine left the Patriots game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and will be out for at least a week or two (T.J. Johnson stepped in to snap the ball for the remainder of the game). The Bengals also have troubles in the red zone as is evident by their failed 4th and one at the one this past Sunday.
On the other side of the line, Cincinnati will go up against a dinged Cody Kessler, who was great against the Tennessee Titans. He went 26-41 for 336 yards, had two touchdown and zero interceptions that earned him a rating of 105.3 and was the second highest passing yardage ever for a Browns rookie.
Terrelle Pryor is also banged up with a hamstring issue after making nine receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, the efforts of these two men were for naught as time ran out with a 2-point deficit against the Browns. As for the running game, Cleveland’s was nearly non-existent this past Sunday as they only made a paltry 40 yards, putting more pressure on the passing game. You can bet that there will be a heavy focus at practice to change that number for the better.
Who to watch for Cincinnati
With the combination of Andy Dalton to A.J. Green going up against a transparent Cleveland secondary, look for a lot of passing to take place balanced by the running of Giovani Bernard—who ran for 94 yards against New England—and Jeremy Hill, who will be out to prove himself after a paltry 41 yards in the same contest. The special teams will also want to prove themselves so the possibility of long returns is a distinct possibility.
Two teams with losing records playing for nothing more than pride guarantees a hard-hitting game. It will boil down to who makes the fewest mistakes and takes advantage of the gifts and giveaways from the other team. While Cincinnati is heavily favored, don’t count out the Cleveland Browns just yet. As with any young team (this year Cleveland has the highest number of rookies playing in the entire NFL) it is only a matter of time until things begin to click.