The 5-7 Cleveland Browns host the 1-11 Cincinnati Bengals this upcoming Sunday in the first Battle of Ohio of the 2019 season. The Browns are coming off yet another disappointing loss to a backup quarterback in Devlin “Duck” Hodges and the Pittsburgh Steelers, whereas the Bengals just won their first contest of the season on the heels of quarterback Andy “Red Rifle” Dalton’s first start since Week 8 vs. the Los Angeles Rams. The Browns dominated the rivalry in 2018, outscoring the Bengals 61-38 on their way to a 2-0 record. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had 542 passing yards and seven touchdowns and running back Nick Chubb had 243 scrimmage yards and two total touchdowns.
Let’s take a closer look at certain matchups, statistics, and trends in order to form expectations for the Week 14 game.
The Browns pass defense is currently sixth-best in yards per game allowed (213.3) and 14th-best in passer rating allowed (88.7). Per Next Gen Stats, Dalton has the fastest average time from snap to throw in the league at 2.43 seconds, which is advantageous behind a porous pass-blocking offensive line that is ranked 30th by Pro Football Focus with a grade of 57.2.
Dalton is expected to have speedster John Ross at his disposal, who has not played since Week 4 vs. the Steelers. Through the first four games with Dalton, Ross accumulated 16 receptions on 31 targets for 328 yards, three touchdowns, and a 121.4 passer rating when targeted. Ross will most likely face-off against Browns rookie cornerback Greedy Williams, whose 58.3 coverage grade ranks 69th at the position. Head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals will try to take advantage of this matchup, as well as fellow wide receiver Tyler Boyd vs. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward, who has failed to live up to expectations in his sophomore season.
On the flip side, the Browns rush defense currently ranks 26th in both rushing yards allowed per carry (4.7) and rushing yards per game (124.0). Second-year running back Joe Mixon has underperformed this season after a breakout rookie campaign in which he had the fourth-most rushing yards in the league (1,171). The Bengals have the 26th ranked run-blocking offensive line, but will have the opportunity to bounce back vs. an injury-riddled Browns defensive line.
On offense, the two-headed monster of a backfield in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should have no problem on the ground vs. a Bengals rush defense that has allowed the most yards per game (157.6) and the most explosive runs this season (54). Part of this is attributable to game script, as the opposing teams have typically held large leads versus the squad, but make no mistake: the running game should once again be the focal point of the offense.
For some context, since the activation of Hunt in Week 10, the Browns lead the league in offensive plays run out of 20 personnel (2 RBs, 0 TEs, and 3 WRs) with 42 or 16% of total plays (Sharp Football). Further, Kitchens has deployed 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE, and 2 WRs) on 34 or 13% of total plays, which is the sixth-most in the league. The duo has accumulated 214 rushing yards on 34 attempts for a ridiculous 6.3 yards per carry.
This is also a favorable matchup for Mayfield and the Browns passing attack, as the Bengals have allowed the highest explosive pass rate (13%) and yards per attempt (8.5). With that said, the defense has only allowed 22 points over the past ten quarters of play, which is second only to the Buffalo Bills (18). Mayfield will look continue his relative hot streak during the second half of the season, during which he has completed 62.9% of his passes for 1,227 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions.
The thoughts of playoffs have all but drifted from fans as we head into December football. All hope is not lost, but things are trending that way as there are a handful of teams vying for one spot. The Browns will look to stay “relevant” and try to win their fourth game in the past five contests.