The Battle of Ohio is on tap for Week 4. Both the Bengals and Browns can’t afford to slip further into the abyss. An 0-4 start could spell disaster.
It’s suddenly that time of year again. The Bengals and Cleveland Browns will be hooking up for the Battle of Ohio on Sunday. Don’t take this as another run-of-the-mill, bland blowout by the Bengals. Hue Jackson will have his team hyped and ready to go. Both teams are staring at starting the season at 0-4. Needless to say, neither franchise expected to be this far in the hole so early.
Looking at the game from a laid-back spectator perspective, it should be entertaining. The Browns and Bengals should provide a–pardon the pun–dogfight that just may go down to the wire. But, that’s not what either team wants or needs at this venture. There has to be an imposing of will by one of the combatants. So far, the Browns have been able to get on the scoreboard. Cleveland is 18th in the league with an 18.7 mark. The beloved Bengals are…last in the NFL with 11.0 points per contest. From a purely statistical standpoint, it looks like a Cleveland win on offense. But, any given Sunday….
Execution Is Huge
The biggest key will be sharp and crisp execution of plays. Bill Lazor can call the greatest game ever, but Andy Dalton and the offense have to implement it to..the…nth degree. Dalton has been horribly erratic with his passes. Brandon LaFell has been on the incomplete end of throws that could have been big-gainers for the Stripes.
With the playbook being scaled back to its barest components and systematically tuned to Dalton’s strengths, there are no excuses. Okay. I’ll give him a slight break. Dalton still needs to feel comfy and cozy in Lazor’s version of the system. But, Andy actually doesn’t have the luxury of another training camp. It all starts now.
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In Week 3, Dalton was able to digest a big hunk of Lazor’s philosophy and have a decent game. He finished 21-of-27 for 212 yards and two TDs. Those numbers will have to be repeated, to keep the Bengals defense fresh and off the field.
Speaking Of Defense
The Bengals will need a big game from the league’s No. 9 ranked unit. The effort against the Packers was excellent. When the first half ended, Aaron Rodgers and the Pack looked shook. The defense was able to limit Green Bay to 78 yards of offense. William Jackson grabbed a pick-6 and staked Cincy to a 21-7 lead at the break.
What’s the magical elixir for another big day? Getting to Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer. He may not be setting the league on fire statistically, but he’s improving. Coach Hue Jackson believes his project is improving.
"“It is never going to be good enough until we win. I’m just being very honest with you. That is the quarterback’s job. You have to win games, but did he do some good things? Yes. Did he do some things that we have to continue improving on? Yes, he did. I told you guys, I’m not going to get too high or too low. I’m just going to keep coaching him and coaching him through things and help him get better, but he did improve last week.”"
What does that mean for the Bengals’ D? A steady dose of blitzes and disguised schemes for the young man. There has to be tons of pressure. But, to avoid the mistakes of Houston and Green Bay, a spy should be put on Kizer. Why? Think of those big chunks of yards given up on third down. The Bengals have a reputation for making first-year QBs look like Hall-of-Fame candidates.
This Has To Be A Win
Finally, the Bengals have the tools necessary to get their first win of the season. But, it will have to be done with passion and determination. The last time both teams went into battle at 0-3 was the 2008 season. Only five teams have been able to make the postseason after starting out with three losses. The San Diego Chargers are the only team to do it after going 0-4.