It’s the “Battle of Ohio” and the Browns still have a chance to make the playoffs, that’s why I’m watching. Last week the Browns beat the Texans 27-14 and the Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24. On Sunday Cleveland travels to Cincinnati for a 1:00 pm (EST) game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns have won two straight for the first time this season, while the Bengals are riding a four-game winning streak. What am I watching this week?

Browns Offense Vs. Bengals Defense. Cincinnati’s defense is ranked twelfth in the league allowing 330 total yards, 216 yards passing, 114 yards rushing and 21.3 points per game. They’re led in tackles by linebacker Germaine Pratt with 78, interceptions by safety Vonn Bell with four and in sacks by defensive end Trey Hendrickson with six. Defensive end Sam Hubbard has 5.5 sacks but, the rest of the team has 7.5 sacks. The Cincinnati defense will again attempt to stop Browns running back Nick Chubb. So far it hasn’t worked. In eight games against the Bengals, Chubb has 763 yards for a 5.3-yard average and eight touchdowns. Due to this strategy, the passing game has worked. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has beaten the Bengals with three different quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum and Jacoby Brissett. All three had very good games. With Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson coming off his first game in 700 days, I expect the Browns to try and get him into a rhythm early with RPO’s to Chubb & Kareem Hunt, screen passes, rollouts, designed quarterback runs and short passes to tight end David Njoku. This will set up longer pass plays to the wide receivers against the Bengals secondary, especially their corners. The Bengals play a base 5-2-4 with a lot of nickel. I expect a trick play or two by newly signed WR Jaelon Darden.

Browns Defense Vs. Bengals Offense. Cincinnati’s offense is ranked fifth in the league averaging 371 total yards, 215 yards passing, 156 yards rushing and 26 points per game. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow makes the offense go. On the season he’s 304 of 440 (69.1%) for 3446 yards, 25 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a QBR of 103.7. He’s been sacked 29 times, but only five times during Cincinnati’s current four game winning streak. The last time these two teams played, the Browns sacked Burrow five times. His wide receiver core is probably the best in the AFC. Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase on the outside and Tyler Boyd on the inside give opposing defenses nightmares. They also have a dynamic running game with Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. What helps the Browns defense is the Bengals don’t have an answer for Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. With the loss for the game of Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst, Cincinnati’s won’t be able to use the TE to chip Garrett. They’ll be forced to keep a running back in the backfield to help. Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods appears to have found his defensive line rotation. The additions of Perrion Winfrey and Chase Winovich and the subtraction of Tommy Togia has allowed the Browns to create more pressure. I expect the Browns to continue to disguise their safety coverage over the middle of the field and to continue to have well designed blitzes. Continued improvement by the special teams is necessary.

On offense control the clock with the run and keep Joe Burrow on the sidelines. The offensive line as a whole has to improve from last week. Nick Chubb is the only running back to rush for 100 yards against this defense this season and has five one-hundred-yard rushing games against the Bengals. On defense pressure Burrow to hold on to the ball and make hurried decisions. In the last three games he’s thrown an interception on the Bengals first possession. Win the turnover battle, the Browns are 3-0 in this series when they win the turnover battle.

Enjoy the game.

 

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