Sunday’s match up looks to be another good one in the storied rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals are heading up to Cleveland for a classic AFC North rivalry game. The two teams will face off for their final meeting of the year to determine the title of “Ohio’s Best Football Team”. The 43 year old rivalry currently has the Bengals in the lead with a record of 42-36. That is the largest lead by either team since the rivalry began in 1968 when Paul Brown co-founded the Bengals.
The Browns are coming into the game on Sunday with a record of 0-5. They will meet up with a 3-2 Bengals team, coming off of a tough week four loss at home to the Dolphins. History stands to show that no matter the record between these two teams, the matchup is always one to watch.
In the first meeting of the 2012 series, the Bengals came away victorious at home by a score of 34-27. It is also worth noting that Cincinnati has dominated the series recently, winning six of the past seven meetings. This game isn’t to be taken lightly, though, as the Browns play well at home and the last time the teams faced off, Brandon Weeden threw for his career high passer rating of 114.9.
In order to help Cincinnati to a road win, there are a couple of key players that will need to step up their game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has struggled as of late. After a tremendous NFL career with the Patriots where he became known for never fumbling the football, he has managed to put the ball on the ground three times in Cincinnati. He also has struggled breaking free of defenders and getting yards play after play. This could be his North and South running mentality or it could be a break down in an inexperienced offensive line working out their kinks. Whatever the issue is, he needs to be better this week to keep the Browns offense off of the field. The Bengals are looking to work Cedric Peerman and Brian Leonard in behind Green-Ellis to take some of the load off.
Rey Maualuga has struggled early in the season and has improved in the last two games. However, he will have to continue to improve in order to stop RB Trent Richardson on Sunday. Maualuga needs to tackle early and closer to the line when Richardson has the ball in his hand. The Cincinnati defense, as a whole, needs to continue to get better and keep pressure on Weeden and the Browns receivers. The Browns took advantage of backs matched up one-on-one out of the backfield to expose the Bengals linebackers in coverage in their last meeting. The Bengals will be looking to correct this issue coming into Sunday.
Cincinnati also needs to take care of the ball on third down. The team currently ranks 31st in the NFL on third down conversions. They are sitting on a third down conversion rate of 24.6% and are 7 of 34 in third down situations in the last two games. With a tough division game on the line they will have to find ways to get to the first down marker.
Last week, the offense had a hard time moving the ball and was prone to turnovers. This week, facing a Cleveland defense that is hungry for its first win, ball security should be the mantra. Andy Dalton threw two interceptions, A.J. Green fumbled once and dropped a caught pass that he recovered a second time, and Armon Binns lost a fumble after a reception. This essentially set Miami up for a badly needed win on the road. The Browns are going to be in the Bengals faces on Sunday and trying to take any opportunity they get at the ball. Ball awareness will be the key to a road victory in this game.
There are a lot of variables on both sides of the ball. As we saw the last time these two teams came together, though, this game has the makings for a high-scoring, exciting NFL showdown. Even though the outcome is still uncertain, there is one thing we can count on. All over Ohio, fans will get up on Sunday morning and adorn themselves in their team colors, drawing the rivalry line for friends and family in the same state and Paul Brown will be looking down with a smile.