CINCINNATI (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns and Bengals meet Sunday for the 89th time with both teams anxiously looking to put miserable seasons behind them.
Cincinnati is 4-6 and in a must-win situation to keep their faint playoff hopes on life support while Cleveland is 0-10 for a second consecutive year.
The Bengals have won 6 straight in the series and 20 of the last 26 against the Browns. Cleveland’s last win in the series came in Cincinnati – a 24-3 victory on Thursday night football Nov. 6, 2014 to vault the team to 6-3. They’ve gone 5-44 since.
Overall, the Browns have lost their last 11 games dating back to last season. Since 2008 the team has lost 10 straight once, 11 twice (current streak) and 17 in a row once. 1974-1975 was the only previous time in franchise history they had lost 11 consecutive games.
Here’s a look at what we’ll be watching for on the shores the Ohio river.
– Browns head coach Hue Jackson seems finally willing to ride out rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer for the remainder of the year so he can get a true evaluation of the second-round pick from Notre Dame. Kizer has thrown just 5 touchdowns and an NFL-worst 14 interceptions this season in 9 starts. Sunday’s game marks the first time Kizer gets a second look at an opponent. He was 16 of 34 for 118 yards with an interception in a 31-7 loss to the Bengals in Cleveland on Oct. 1 that saw him benched with 6:30 to play with the game out of hand at 31-0.
– A reason Kizer has gotten a bit of a pass in his rookie season is playmakers, or lack of. That excuse is slowly walking out the door with the return of receiver Corey Coleman last week that saw him catch a team-high 6 of 11 targets for 80 yards – the most yardage allowed by Jacksonville to a wideout this season. Running back Duke Johnson Jr., who only received 27 snaps last week in the loss to the Jaguars, leads the Browns with 46 catches and 414 yards receiving. He also leads all NFL runners with 1,462 yards receiving since 2015. Jackson deviated from his original gameplan to run the ball last week against the Jaguars. Cleveland ran just 13 times.
– Gregg Williams’ defense should feast Sunday because to say Cincinnati’s offense is sputtering would be kind. The Bengals are ranked dead last averaging just 66 yards on the ground per game this season while the Browns are ranked sixth against the run despite allowing 243 combined rushing yards in losses at Detroit and at home to the Jaguars. Cincinnati is last in the league in total yards and total plays. They’re second-worst in time of possession. They’re also on pace to run the fewest plays, have the worst time of possession, and rush for the fewest yards in the franchise’s 50 seasons. Opportunity knocks for a big day from Williams’ D.
– Despite the recent struggles for Cincinnati’s offense, the Browns will need to be wary as usual of quarterback Andy Dalton, who has 22 career 300-yard passing games – one behind Boomer Esiason for the club record, and receiver A.J. Green, who has 31 career 100-yard receiving games – tied with Chad Johnson for the franchise record. During their win in Cleveland on Oct. 1, Dalton completed 16 consecutive passes and finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards with 4 touchdowns and passer rating of 146. Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft caught a team-high 6 passes for 68 yards with two TDs. Dalton is 10-3 in his career against the Browns with 24 TDs, 11 interceptions and passer rating of 95.