Week 12 will be another chance for the Cincinnati Bengals to get things right and prepare for a trip to the postseason. The playoffs are a possibility.
Week 12 is still what most Bengals faithful thought it would be. Yes, it’s the Cleveland Browns marching into Paul Brown Stadium. But, the stakes are considerably higher than before. Suddenly, the Bengals and Browns have something to play for. Yeah, it’s always been a pride thing before. But, this time…it’s no joking matter. If Cincinnati wants to stay relevant in the playoff conversation, they need to take this game seriously.
True. The Bengals have owned the Browns over the last few seasons. Marvin Lewis and the Stripes have compiled a 21-8 mark against the Dawgs. Since being embarrassed on Monday Night Football in 2014 (24-3), the Bengals have laid six straight L’s on the Browns.
Since things have been so insanely comical for the Browns, Week 12 would be the perfect scenario to exact some revenge on Cincinnati. The Bengals essentially need to win-out to get a decent Wild Card seeding and hope for a home game. So. this isn’t the time to look at the game as a gimmie. Anything could happen.
1. Avoid looking ahead
After the Bengals and Browns hook up, the scene shifts to the dark side. Pittsburgh swoops into PBS for a MNF date and they’ll be ready to foil the Bengals’ chances at a playoff berth.
It’s tempting for Cincy to look at the Browns 0-10 record and assume that they’ll be 5-6 after Sunday. But, the Browns and Hue Jackson will have something to say about that. This is not the time to come out flat and go through the motions. If anything, this is the time to make improvements in execution. Lewis should have his team ready to stomp Cleveland and take no prisoners.
Lewis and Jackson are friends, off the field. But, there are times when emotions get involved during business. Sunday afternoon will be a showdown. Surely, Hue will have his team thinking about the embarrassing losses at the hands of the Bengals. So, any and all bets are off when it comes to the friendship factor. Lewis’ job is already on the line. A loss to the Browns would seal his fate with Mikey Boy. An unyielding focus has to be the key.
2. Get the Browns’ offense off the field
That’s easier said than done, with this defense. Against the Broncos, the Bengals D allowed a whopping 57.1 percent of the third downs they faced to be converted. If ya wanna get to the playoffs, that ain’t the way. It has to come to an end in Week 12.
If you think it should be easy to do, think again. The Broncos were rolling with Brock Osweiler and an offense that ranks 18th in the league. That’s not so shabby, considering the Bengals are hovering near the bottom. But, they’re far from the New Orleans Saints.
Tossing a bend-but-don’t-break defense into the playoff mix is…okay. But, this time of year is made for dominating defenses that have finally gelled and are ready on carry the offense on their back. The Bengals showed signs of that in Denver. Dre Kirkpatrick showed up to play, and the D came up with stops when they were needed. But, it’s time to play another complete game and make things easier for the offense.
3. Time of possession woes
If defense wins championships, the offense can’t be far behind.
But, there has to be a drastic change of circumstances with the units in Week 12. Again, the O-line has to come together and give Andy Dalton the time he needs to connect downfield. In Denver, Andy had slightly more time and was able to toss a few deep bombs.
Did someone mention the running game? Until the Bengals find a way to get Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard into the 100-yard range, the pressure will stay on Dalton and the line. There was a slight uptick in Week 11 but not enough to claim things are looking up. Outside of Mixon having more patience with finding holes, it’s the same old soup.
Cold weather is upon us. The AFC North is about…running. But, if Bill Lazor can find a way to utilize the short pass and get the same results, it’s all good. At this point, it’s going to take a ball control attack to keep the defense fresh and allow things to happen. Guess who’s at the bottom of the league for time of possession? No, not the Bengals. But, they’re next to last at No. 31.
Simple. Control the ball and score TDs in the red zone. Easily said, but maybe harder to do this week.