Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals v. Cleveland Browns: The Battle for Ohio

  • 2020 NFL Schedule
  • A.J. Green
  • Baker Mayfield
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Joe Burrow
  • Myles Garrett
  • NFL Week 2
  • Odell Beckham
  • Thursday Night Football
  • Zac Taylor
By Sam Connaughton September 16, 2020 0 Comment
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The Browns and Bengals enter this Thursday night matchup looking for their first win of the young season. With no love lost between these teams, the Battle for Ohio will be just that: A BATTLE.

The Battle for Ohio is something that football fans in Ohio look forward to each year. The Cleveland Browns have won three of the past four. However, the Cincinnati Bengals won the last meeting 33-23 at home. The teams will duke it out this Thursday night as both teams look to grab their first win of the 2020 season and early season bragging rights. Here are some things to watch for:

When the Cincinnati Bengals are on offense…

The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line struggled mightily against Joey Bosa, Jerry Tillery, and Melvin Ingram in their Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Things don’t get any easier for that unit. They go up against a Browns defensive line that has some certified studs. That starts with Myles Garrett. The Defensive Player of the Year hopeful is one of the best edge defenders in the NFL. He is paired with Olivier Vernon who has been a force on the edge since he entered the league in 2012. To add to those dynamic edge rushers, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was one of the highest rated interior defensive lineman for Week 1 according to PFF. He scored a 94.1 for his performance against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday.

So things won’t get any easier for the Bengals offensive line. It also doesn’t help that Bengals starting right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo will not play. His injury means that former first round pick Billy Price will be promoted to the starting lineup at right guard. This cannot be understated. In order for the Bengals to win football games, Joe Burrow needs time to process and make throws. Protecting Burrow is imperative and the Bengals offensive line will need to play better as a unit then they did Week 1.

When the Cleveland Browns are on offense…

This Browns offense has weapons. There is no denying that. That being said the biggest question mark right now for the Browns is will good Baker Mayfield show up? Mayfield hasn’t been able to recapture his stellar rookie season form. He has also been very turnover prone. He has thrown thirty six interceptions in thirty one game. That also includes his Week 1 interception against Baltimore. Many Browns fans point the finger at Mayfield for the teams poor performance in 2019 and early in 2020. Some are even calling for backup Case Keenum to replace Mayfield if he continues to struggle.

If Baker is good, however, this offense is terrifying. Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best 1-2 running back punch in the NFL. Wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. both provide big play ability every time they touch it. If Mayfield can get the ball into his playmakers hands efficiently on Thursday, that will be dangerous for the Bengals defense.

When the Cincinnati Bengals are on defense…

For the Bengals, the task is simple yet incredibly difficult. That task is limiting Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as much as possible.

In Week 1 vs. Baltimore, the Browns were effective running the football. Hunt had 13 carries for 72 yards and at 5.5 yards per carry. Chubb had 10 carries for 60 yards at 6.0 yards per carry. All of that against a good Ravens defense could be a problem for the Bengals defense. They gave up 156 total rushing yards to the Chargers Week 1 and could be without defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels. Both sat out Monday’s and Tuesday’s practice.

The Bengals need to limit those two running backs in order for them to make the Browns offense one dimensional. The Cincinnati offense hasn’t proven they have the quick scoring offense that can allow a team to ground and pound and bleed clock.The Bengals have to make Baker Mayfield beat them. If he does, so be it. They have a better chance of winning with Baker slinging the ball then the Browns talented backfield duo grinding out the game on the ground.

When the Cleveland Browns are on defense…

The Browns have been banged up in their secondary since the beginning of training camp. The lost their 2020 second round pick Grant Delpit for the season due to injury. They are still not sure if cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson will play as both did not practice early this week. The team did trade the Jacksonville Jaguars for safety Ronnie Harrison but he only played three snaps against Baltimore. That being said, Harrison will probably play more on Thursday.

The Browns secondary will need to have a really strong game against the good wide receiver group of the Bengals. The Bengals wide receiver unit is the best position group on offense and will need to be stellar to win this football game.However, if the Browns can get to Burrow with limited pass rushers and send more guys into coverage to cover those talented Bengals receivers, it could be a recipe for success for the Browns against the Bengals come Thursday.

Browns X Factor:

Harrison Bryant was the talk of Browns training camp. The 4th round pick out of Florida Atlantic drew rave reviews from coaches, players and Cleveland media alike. Only problem was he was third on the depth chart behind tight ends David Njoku and free agent signing Austin Hooper.

That changed when Njoku was placed on injured reserve after he suffered a knee injury in Week 1. Njoku has struggled being consistent in his time with the Browns. If Bryant can be a consistent target for Baker and the Browns, that could be a huge factor in the game. It would make the Bengals defense play more honestly which would help the Browns get the ball into the hands of their other weapons like Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. That could spell disaster for the Bengals.

Bengals X Factor

Vonn Bell was brought in this offseason to upgrade a defense that was terrible against the run in 2019. Bell graded at 90.3 according to PFF in 2019 in the run defense category. That is elite. He was brought in to help stop the running back duo that the Browns have.

That being said, Bell didn’t have a great game against the Chargers. He had a 68.7 run defense grade and a 64.0 grade overall. That isn’t going to cut it this week. It also looks like safety Shaun Williams will be out again this week which means Bell will be on the field for the majority of snaps this Thursday. He needs to step it up against the Browns and be that elite run defending safety that the Bengals expected to bring in this offseason.

Bengals vs Browns Prediction:

Both teams are banged up. The short week didn’t do either team any favors. The Browns have all the pressure in this game. That should allow Burrow and the Bengals to go out and play free from the opening whistle. The Bengals can take advantage of a banged up Browns secondary and win the game late.

Final Score: Bengals 20 Browns 17

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