To stay relevant in the playoff picture, the Cincinnati Bengals need to beat the Cleveland Browns. Week 12 will be a rematch with consequences.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be doing something on Sunday that fans didn’t think would be happening. When the 4-6 Bengals tangle with the 0-10 Cleveland Browns, they’ll be playing to look capable and relevant for a playoff spot at the end of the season. After losing to Jacksonville and the Titans, the Jim Mora memes were starting to pop up around Cincy on social media. But, now, the buzz is all about getting to the dance again.
The Bengals-Browns matchup will be the second installment of the Battle of Ohio and things could get interesting. Hue Jackson and the Browns played the Jaguars tough and managed to fumble away (literally) what could have been their first win of the year. Actually, until the fumble that iced the game for the Jags, the Browns gave a better showing than the Bengals against the Jags.
When the Browns and Bengals tangle at Paul Brown Stadium, it’ll be another set of circumstances. Hue Jackson will be looking for win number two of his illustrious tenure by the lake and Marvin Lewis will try to have the Bengals focused.
The ground game
It’s been a long time since the Bengals have been this bad running the ball. Even when Ken Zampese and Jackson were calling the shots, there was a bit more bite to the ground attack.
Here’s where a little concern comes in. The Browns are ranked No. 7 in the NFL against the run. Yes, that team from Cleveland. They’re giving up a measly 91.7 yards per game. Well, there’s an area they’re better than the Bengals. Cincy is surrendering 122.4 yards a week and fall in at No. 27. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
So, in order to get Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard on track, the O-line needs to shine. Over the past two weeks, the rotation has stopped and the stability has been better. But, the rushing totals are still horrible. The Bengals are only picking up 68 yards per game. Either the O-line stinks to high heaven or the backs need better vision.
Mixon has shown better patience in the last couple of games and is poised to have a breakout performance soon. Getting his first 100-yard game against the Browns would be sweet. Andy Dalton was the leading rusher (29 yards, 7.3 ypc) in the first matchup. That truly needs to change.
The Burfict chronicles
Vontaze Burfict was a beast unleashed in Denver. After making it known that the refs were provoking him and cursing him out, the atmosphere at Sports Authority Stadium was…heavenly. There were no flags tossed in Burfict’s direction and he was able to give direction to the defense without fear of getting ejected. Eventually, all things must come to an end. But, it’s good to see the officials lift the target off his back.
If the same scenario takes place at PBS, things could get nasty for the Browns. Having Burfict roaming free again could set up the possibility of another single score game or a shutout. The Bengals’ defense flirted with a shutout (31-7 final) until the fourth quarter, on October 1.
When Burfict is allowed to play in beast mode, he’s a defensive game changer. Another penalty-free game would be a great boost for the D. With Kevin Minter returning from an elbow injury, Burfict slides back to his WILL position. Gulp. Look out Browns.
The other Tyler
The addition of Tyler Kroft to the mix has been a nice change of pace for the Bengals’ offense. In the first titanic struggle, Kroft hauled in two TD passes from Dalton. With the same execution and schematic changes from Bill Lazor, the Bengals could use the tight end to open things up.
"“I know tight ends have hurt us over the middle in Cover 2,” said Browns cornerback Jason McCourty. “They were able to make more plays, especially in the red zone. That hurt us big time just holding them to third down and then allowing them to score touchdowns on those third downs.”"
Kroft participated in limited practice Wednesday but was in full participation on Thursday and Friday. Essentially, having him on the line to release into a dead spot will be just what the Bengals need.