Bengals Gameday Preview: Week 9 vs. Browns

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Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) audibles versus the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals won 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

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This week’s Thursday Night Football matchup will feature the Battle of Ohio: The Cleveland Browns taking on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Cincinnati Bengals will be looking to improve to 8-0 for the first time in franchise history and keep pace with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos for a playoff bye.

The Cleveland Browns are 2-5 and coming off a heartbreaking loss after leading the Arizona Cardinals 20-10 at halftime. Now, they must face the AFC North leaders and 7-0 Bengals on a short week for both teams. They will head to Cincinnati looking to repeat last season’s Thursday night dominance in Cincinnati, in which the Browns handled the Bengals 24-3.

The Browns are likely to be missing star corner Joe Haden, quarterback Josh McCown, and safety Donte Whitner, all from injuries suffered in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. If that is the case, Johnny Manziel will make another start this season. While he has made some nice improvements to his game, Manziel is 0-1 against Cincinnati after getting smashed in his first NFL start against the Bengals, 30-0.

The Bengals could likely be missing offensive tackle Andre Smith, which means the starting spot will likely go to Eric Winston. However, there’s a small possibility that rookie Jake Fisher could get the nod. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga could also miss Thursday’s actionA.J. Hawk will likely fill in at the MIKE position.

Many of the current Bengals remember last season’s debacle on Thursday night and want to continue to prove that this season is different. Thursday’s matchup will be Cincinnati’s first of three straight prime time matchups and the first of five total games under the lights. While the Bengals have struggled in prime time matches in the past, they’re primed for prime time this season. Vontaze Burfict returned to give the defense a huge boost against the Steelers and will look to make an impact in his second game back after missing most of the 2014 season and the first half of the 2015 season with a knee injury; his return to action could help the Bengals’ defense go from good to great.

The Browns are looking to avoid a 2-7 start, which last happened in 2012. Cleveland has been plagued by injuries to key players on offense and defense and will need to have a strong showing in order to have a chance in this game. Meanwhile, the Bengals are almost fully healthy but coming off of one of their least convincing offensive performances with two interceptions and two fumbles.

The Bengals were penalized ten times last week, many of which negated some nice plays; the team will need to be more disciplined in a rivalry matchup that will be riddled with emotions. Marvin Lewis will need to get timeout management under control with the Bengals calling what seems to be at least one timeout due to a miscue in the first quarter of each game so far this season. While calling first-quarter timeouts isn’t the worst thing that can happen, it’s something that the Bengals can–and need to–control.

Next: Bengals Safeties Returning to Dominance

The Bengals should be heavy favorites in this game, but they will need to be on top of their game if they expect to get off to an 8-0 start. Despite team records, any divisional matchup is a tough game, and the Browns have played the Bengals well in the past. This Browns team is talented; if it could manage to finish off games, it could be a 6-2 team; instead, the Browns are 2-6 because of this inability to finish games. Cincinnati will need to get off to a quick start and hold its lead if it wants to avoid a trap game scenario. If the Bengals can avoid the trap and bring their “A-Game,” this should be an easy win. But again, anything is possible on any given Sunday–or Thursday, in this case. Tune in on Thursday night to see what happens in Cincinnati.

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