[burp] The Browns are sitting here after Thanksgiving at 4-6; not great, but not terrible. Certainly right around where I expected them to be. This week’s matchup gives them a chance at opening-day redemption. If I were Pat Shurmur and Dick Jauron, I’d have an animated GIF of that play where the defense didn’t get lined up cycling endlessly on every available screen in the building. But, that’s just me. Pass the gravy!
The Bengals took the momentum of that opening day win and built a 6-3 record before falling to the Ravens last Sunday. Cincy’s been getting it done with a modest offense (18th in the league in yards/game) led by rookie QB Andy Dalton and rookie WR AJ Green. Both are nicked up for this game, which may help the Browns’ defense. Speaking of, that is where this game will be won or lost. Both teams are in the top-six in yards allowed per game, with the Browns slightly edging the Bengals. It could be another interesting battle. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Scott: …they can continue testing and executing downfield on offense while avoiding the big play on defense. This team has shown that it can succeed in a bend-but-don’t-break fashion; the rest will come down to Colt McCoy and the offense providing some wiggle room . Say 17 points worth. Whomever runs the ball – be they Montario Hardesty or Chris Ogbannaya – will have to do so in a north-south fashion as the Bengals defense will eat up any hesitation or premature spin move. Greg Little, Ben Watson and Josh Cribbs will have to take advantage of any opportunities they have. An AJ Green absence will help matters a bit as Jerome Simpson should be no problem for Joe Haden. The rest of the offense can focus on the run game and the occasional Jermaine Gresham release. Just as the Bengals shocked the Browns on Week 1, it’s Cleveland’s turn to provide the upset.
DP: …they take advantage on defense. I can’t see the Browns’ offense getting magically better this week, so it’s going to come down to stopping Cedric Benson, limiting Dalton, and if AJ Green plays making sure he doesn’t get any open looks down field. You know, like when the defense just doesn’t line up. Those kinds of looks. Would be bad. I guess is what I’m saying. If it’s a defensive struggle, special teams will be key. The Bengals’ punt return unit is 29th in the league, having not returned a punt longer than 21 yards through 10 games. The Browns can’t afford any hiccups there. Offensively, another breakout game from Chris Ogbannaya wouldn’t hurt, and more throws to Greg Little, please! It’s going to be tough on the road, but if the Browns can avoid falling behind early, they can hang around and perhaps steal a win.
Craig: …the Browns can stop the Bengals offense. We haven’t had to talk about the Browns defense a ton this year as they’ve outplayed the offense substantially. The Cincy air attack is developing quickly with rookie Andy Dalton, Jerome Simpson and A.J. Green. The Browns will have to slow that attack down and also keep Cedric Benson under control. They’ll have to do this without T.J. Ward in run support and coming off a couple of weeks where Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden haven’t looked their absolute best. The pressure will be on the defensive line and linebackers to start quickly in stopping the run and getting in Dalton’s face. Some early pressure could pay dividends.
Andrew: …they don’t let the Bengals snap the ball while the defense is just standing around? That broken play seemed to be the difference last time these teams played. Of course, the Browns didn’t play very well that day and it was Andy Dalton and AJ Green’s first game. Since then, the Bengals have found a little bit of both success and cohesion, things the Browns could really use. I expect the Bengals defense to make life tough for the Browns offense, so to stay in this game I really feel that the Browns defense needs to keep Cedric Benson under 100 yards. If he’s tearing up yards on the ground, it’s going to limit the Browns’ possessions and fewer possessions means very few points for this offense. If the Browns can keep the Bengals offense off the field and throw together some quality drives, maybe they can find a way to steal back a win from the Bengals.
Rick: …the offense makes more progress this week. The Browns managed a few nice drives last week, but still need to get the job done in the first quarter. They don’t want to fall behind against the Bengals, who have found their defensive prowess this season. A hopefully healthy Hardesty could make a difference. The Bengals’ secondary is banged up as well, so perhaps we finally see a big game from Greg Little or dare I say Evan Moore? Defensively, they have to do the opposite of week 1, namely stopping Cedric Benson.
Kirk: …The Browns will win if the Bengals collapse like the Browns did in their meeting on opening day. I was at that game, so I’ve seen with my own two eyes that the Browns can compete with Cincy, but whether or not they still believe that is another story after the Bengals’ success. It’s up to Pat Shurmur and the coaching staff to put a wrinkle in the game plan to ignite a spark and give them an edge. The offensive line was a huge key to last week’s victory, so back-to-back strong performances would really be something to build off. Two straight weeks with big play passes to wide receivers should allow Colt to work his tight ends into the equation a little easier. Both Watson and Moore found the end zone in that opener. If Hardesty is back, I’d like to see him and Ogbonnaya split time and see if that can keep the Bengal D on their toes. If A.J. Green plays, Joe Haden needs to turn in a repeat performance… well, except for that one play. Benson thrashed the Browns’ defense in Week 1, and he is a different style runner than Jones-Drew last week, so keeping him under 100 yards might be the biggest key of all.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?