Let us not shy away from the obvious of the upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals for the Cleveland Browns coming out of the bye week. It is– and should be– the Hue Jackson game. The fired head coach has not only decided to sign with a division rival in the same state, but he also will be directing the defense charged with putting a stop on the offense he somewhat created before his dismissal.
A reminder that NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that a certain potential franchise quarterback was not displeased to be out from under the rule of Jackson.
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) October 29, 2018
Here we go.
Do you believe Hue Jackson gives the Bengals an advantage during game planning for the Browns?
Bode: As easy as the memes and mockery come about given Jackson’s tenure with the Browns, he should have some insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the team. How deep his knowledge is schematically is one of the bigger questions though as there were many rumors he hadn’t dipped his toes into the Todd Haley offense much during the season. If there was a week for his football knowledge to help Cincinnati though, this would be it.
Gerbs: As Bode said, it’s hard to see where Hue wouldn’t have ANY insight, despite the team taking on a completely different air than when he was in charge. The offense is clicking, the defense made some in-game adjustments, but Hue does know who these players are and could give some information on snap counts and audible calls.
Do you believe Hue Jackson being on the opposing sideline gives the Browns a motivation advantage?
Bode: Absolutely. Especially with Jackson directing the Bengal defense given he had created tension with Haley. Players are going to have felt that tension to some degree and were much more likely to side with the coach closer to their gameplans (Haley). The rumors of exactly that playing out with Mayfield suggest there should be ample motivation to show their ex-coach they are better off without him.
Gerbs: For some, without a doubt. As stated above, Baker was seemingly not a fan of Jackson and others offered more anonymous celebration of Jackson being relieved of his duties. You have to think that the team is going to be a bit hungrier than previous weeks to get that victory and shove it in the face of the guy who led them to so many defeats.
Colosimo: Baker is a guy who seeks out these types of motivations and with Hue “helping” Cincinnati on the defensive side, it will give Baker a shot at taking out any frustrations he may have from earlier this season. Beyond Baker, I’m sure that many of these players and coaches see Hue’s move South as below the belt, given that the Browns play the Bengals twice in their last six games. Hue has motivation as well, but the entire Cleveland team should be united in having some extra juice coming into this game as they try to make a statement.
What do you expect out of Baker Mayfield against the Cincinnati defense?
Bode: The Bengals give up the most yards, the second most points, and the sixth most yards per attempt in the NFL. Football Outsiders’ DVOA has them No. 22 against the pass and No. 30 against the run. So, the Bengals are not quite as bad as the Atlanta Falcons defense against the pass, but they are pretty close. Mayfield should be able to continue to show he is capable of taking the next step as he did before the bye.
Gerbs: With only one game over 300 yards on his resume, you have to think that the simple awfulness of the Bengals defense will help provide the rookie QB all the rope he needs to tie up a big game. Lack of a pass rush, lack of outside coverage, the uncertainty of whether or not Vontaze Burfict will be on the field to try and hobble players…all of these things add up to a big game for the Browns offense.
Colosimo: I expect more of what we’ve seen the last couple weeks against another soft defense. They should concentrate on more quick hitters and screens to deny the Bengals front an opportunity to go to work on the tackles. Baker will come into this fired up, and early success could snowball into another strong performance from the rookie.
Can the Browns defense disrupt the struggling Bengal offense? What do they need to do?
Bode: Much will depend on health. A.J. Green playing (even not at 100%) makes the Bengal offense much different if he can go. The Browns own secondary has several players who have been battling to stay on the field. Overall, the Browns should be able to contain Andy Dalton by limiting his downfield playmaking ability, but they will have to remain disciplined to do so.
Gerbs: All the Browns do is disrupt offenses. Look at the Atlanta game and you can see that quarterback Matt Ryan never got settled in, whether it be umbrella coverage or pass rush flushing him out of his comfy pocket. As far as what they need to do, they need to cover the goshdarn tight end. C.J. Uzomah is an unheralded name, but Browns teams in the past have of way of making those unknown players look like they are in-his-prime Tony Gonzalez.
Colosimo: The Browns are coming out of the bye well rested and fresh. These are young guys, so we could see the defense as energized as they were the first few weeks of the season. Gregg has done an good job confusing opposing quarterbacks this season and Dalton is far from the best they’ve seen to this point. I don’t think they need to do anything extra-special beyond avoiding a slow start on both sides of the ball.
Can the Browns start a winning streak and continue the Bengals losing streak?
Bode: The signs are strong for the Browns in this matchup. The Bengals are the exact type of team that they should be able to handle with the talent going for them, plus Cincinnati is coming off a physical game against Baltimore, while Cleveland is coming off the bye. Still, it is a division game, so the Browns need to show us on the field they can actually get it done.
Gerbs: Um yes, I wrote about this earlier in the week.
Colosimo: The Browns are coming in as healthy as they’ve been all season, and with Hue roaming the opposing sideline I expect them to pull out all the stops to win this game. It won’t be easy but the Browns have all the tools they need to come home with a W. Historically Cincinnati hasn’t been kind to the Browns, but if Kitchens out-coaches Hue Jackson and Browns consistently move the ball, Cleveland will be in this game late with a chance to steal a division road game and start a winning streak.