Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals: The Battle of Ohio Preview

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Last week was embarrassing for the Cincinnati Bengals, but not as shameful as both teams performances in the Browns/Eagles match-up. Cleveland’s inability to move the ball against a stout Philadelphia Eagles defense, even with bountiful opportunity off of turnovers, bodes well for a Bengals team looking to rebound from a painful season opening loss to the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens.

Brandon Weeden accounted for 4 turnovers in his career debut. He thew 4 picks and also fumbled the ball once, but it was recovered by the Browns. “Well, Michael Vick is a veteran and he had as many INTs as Weeden!” says the

Cleveland Browns optimist. That’s neat, but Weeden also completed only 34.3% of his 35 pass attempts for a mere 118 yards. That’s a 3.37 average. Weeden ended the day with a 5.1 QB rating.

According to pro-football-reference.com Weeden’s stats are near the worst among rookie quarterbacks in their first game (with at least 20 pass attempts) since 1960 (out of 49 QBs). Weeden’s 34.3 completion % ranks 6th worst, his 118 yards ranks 15th worst, his 4 INTs is tied for the worst and so is his 5.1 QB rating.

What this means for the Cincinnati Bengals is that if they want to rebound from a poor defensive performance against the Ravens they MUST terrorize the Browns and their underwhelming rookie QB on Sunday. They don’t necessarily have to force him to throw 4 interceptions, but they need to rush him, hit him, and make him throw this game away.

The key will be stopping the run. The rookie running back from Alabama, Trent Richardson is Weeden’s only hope for having a decent chance of creating some offense for the Browns. If the Bengals can stuff Richardson like the Eagles did they will force Weeden into obvious pass situations which will allow the Bengals pass-rush to get some pressure on the Browns QB.

There is great news for the Bengals on the defensive side. Leading sack specialist Carlos Dunlap, who looked like he was ready to take leaps forwards in Mike Zimmer’s defense, is returning to the line-up and will be looking to make a huge impact after missing most of the preseason with an injury.

To break the game down even further we can look at the individual match-ups.

The Browns wide receivers look to pose no threat to the Bengals secondary. Browns leading receiver, Mohamed Massaquoi is a small 6’2″, 207 lbs. and doesn’t have the speed to get separation on deep routes. Massaquoi will probably get most of his targets on underneath throws over the middle for short gains, which the Bengals will be happy to live with as they take away the long ball.

The next most dangerous receiver is TE Ben Watson who can be blanked by strong, speedy linebackers or safeties, which the Bengals have in Manny Lawson and free safety Reggie Nelson, who will need to step up in the absence of Thomas Howard who is out for the season.

The Browns Pro Bowl blindside protector LT Joe Thomas practiced Thursday with a knee wrap and starting center Alex Mack and offensive guard John Greco were listed on the teams injury report as well. All three offensive linemen will probably be ready to go on Sunday, but if any suffer a setback on the field and appear to be vulnerable you can bet that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will be more than happy to expose their weakness.

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