I’ll always watch the Browns. If I can make it through 1-31, I can make it through this year, I hope. Last week the Browns lost to the Ravens 23-20 and the Bengals beat the Falcons 35-17. Monday night, Halloween, Cleveland will host Cincinnati at 8:15 P.M. (EST). After starting 0-2, the Bengals seem to have righted the ship going 3-1. All three of their losses have come on the last play of the game. As with every game so far, this is a big game for the Browns. What am I watching this week?
Browns Offense Vs. Bengals Defense. The Cincinnati defense is a good, sound unit. There are no weak links. The Bengals start a lot of veterans and rarely play rookies. They play nickel or dime 80% of the time using a 4-2-5 alignment as their base defense. In 10 of their last 11 games, the Bengals defense has held opponent quarterbacks under 100 in QBR. For the season, Cincinnati has allowed a total of 12 points in the third quarter and no touchdowns in the second half. The Browns will need to play error-free football. With tight end David Njoku being ruled out, Harrison Bryant will need to step up. His best game as a Browns came against the Bengals. While wide receiver David Bell has been on the field a lot lately, it would be nice for him to have a breakout game. Running back Kareem Hunt will need to be a bigger part of the offense and Nick Chubb has to have at least 20 touches. Game situation playcalling must improve and the special teams will need to be at least average.
Browns Defense Vs. Bengals Offense. After the first two games, the Bengals have gone away from running the ball and have placed quarterback Joe Burrow almost exclusively in the shotgun. Cincinnati now goes 83% of the time without play-action. They have five touchdown receptions over forty yards, number one in the NFL. The Bengals have won seven-straight games when Burrow has a QBR over 100. To prevent sacks, Burrow has a quick release. He gets the ball out of his hand in 2.47 seconds which is sixth in the league. He completes 58% of his passes when he releases the ball in 2.30 seconds or less. In the two losses at the beginning of the year, defenses played safety coverage in the center of the field. The Browns will need to attempt the same coverage. Time for safety John Johnson III to earn his salary. While Burrow completes 90% of his passes when pressured and has a QBR of 121 when blitzed, the Browns defense needs to get him to hold the ball longer. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has six sacks and the rest of the team has 8.5, which includes two by linebacker Brandon Phillips who’s on IR. Defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney, Jordan Elliot and Taven Bryan will have to apply the pressure. I expect better communication on the defense with veteran linebacker Deion Jones stepping in as the Browns middle linebacker.
Will the loss of WR Ja’ Marr Chase make a difference in the Bengals offense? Yes. Chase has the speed to stretch the field. He leads the team in receptions (47), yards (605) and receiving touchdowns (six). His replacement is Mike Thomas, who in seven games has two receptions for 38 yards and no touchdowns. I think the Bengals will involve running back Joe Mixon in the offense both in the running game and the short passing game. On offense, the Browns will need to play like they did against Baltimore minus the turnovers and better play-calling in key moments. Enjoy the game.