There are no easy games in the NFL. That said, facing a divisional rival on the road in the season opener is harder than most. You have to go back to 2017 to find the last time the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns on the road. It's a trend Joe Burrow and co. will be keen to buck.
It's clear the Browns now have a roster to rival any of the Super Bowl contenders, but the question is, can they take that strength on paper across the white lines? Let's take a look at the five players most likely to have the biggest impact come Sunday.
All stats are courtesy of PFF.
5. Dalvin Tomlinson
The Browns signed Dalvin Tomlinson to a four-year, $57 million contract this offseason. It beefs up the interior of their defensive line and gives them extra pass-rush ability. Tomlinson recorded 29 pressures for the Vikings in 2022, including three sacks.
Interior pressure has become a major focus in NFL defensive game plans. It makes sense; the quickest route to the quarterback is from defensive tackle spots. It's also been an Achilles heel for the Bengals, up until the recent investment into the guard and center positions.
The experience of Ted Karras and Alex Cappa has really shored up the offensive line, and Cordell Volson was serviceable in his rookie year. If he can make strides in year 2, the group's familiarity should help give Burrow time in the pocket.
Without Denzel Ward in the secondary (assuming he doesn't play), the Browns will be eager to disrupt the pocket and stymie the deep ball threat. If Tomlinson can be kept quiet, then Chase and Higgins should thrive.