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Bengals vs. Browns: Getting to Know the Enemy With Cincy Jungle

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Scott Bantel from Cincy Jungle exchanged five questions with us, discussing whether Cincinnati's run defense has improved since the last matchup, whether Bengals fans would've rather faced Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, and more.

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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Scott Bantel from Cincy Jungle and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!

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Chris: "The last time these two teams met, the Browns ran the ball an astounding 52 times. Has anything happened since then to believe the Bengals can stop Cleveland's running game?"

Scott: "Yes, but... The biggest difference is the Bengals got Rey Maualuga and Brandon Thompson back on defense. Maualuga and Thompson returned the following week, just before the Bengals went on the road for three straight games and in those three games, the Bengals didn’t allow a single team to rush for more than 75 total yards (2.9 YPA). But, even though the Bengals held the Browns to a 3.3 YPA last game, they still surrendered 170 yards on the ground and if they want to win, that can’t happen again. I do think the run defense is markedly better now that Maualuga and Thompson are back, but it was concerning to see Le’Veon Bell have the game he did last Sunday. The only thing the Bengals can hang their hat on regarding their poor performance last week is that Bell is a special back and a lot of his yards came late in the game - including his big run (53 yards) which came against four backup defensive linemen."

Chris: "As a Bengals fan, were you happy to hear that Johnny Manziel was going to start for the Browns this week, or would you have rather faced Brian Hoyer?"

Scott: "Absolutely, and for two reasons: First and foremost, the Bengals suck against Hoyer. Hoyer is 2-0 against the Bengals and the Bengals have looked terrible in both games. While Hoyer didn’t do anything special in either game, he also didn’t turn the ball over. In fact, the Bengals have never forced a turnover from the Browns offense when Hoyer has been at the helm. And second, the Bengals should be able to confuse Manziel – they have proven they can’t confuse Hoyer. That being said, the last time the Bengals played a quarterback that likes to run (Cam Newton), they were torched by Newton for 100+ yards on the ground. Certainly Manziel is not Newton, but if the Bengals can’t keep him in the pocket and force him to rely on his arm rather than his legs, he can make things happen against this defense."

Chris: "Since getting shut down by the Browns, A.J. Green appears to be tearing up the league again. Has he turned things up a notch, or do you attribute the success to improved play from Andy Dalton?"

Scott: "Both. The last time these two teams met, Green was only ten days removed from the inactive list with a turf toe injury which caused him to miss three games. Green has finally started looking healthy and it shows on the stat sheet. Also, like you pointed out, Dalton and his 2.0 passer rating set quarterback play back 20 years the last time these two teams met and that will make any receiver struggle. Since that game, Dalton has played much better and it is a combination of things. 1) Dalton has simply played better, 2) his receivers have played better (they dropped a lot of balls in week 10), 3) the Bengals line has played better – most notably the right tackle position, and 4) that Thursday night in Cincinnati was a terrible night to try and throw the football – windy, rainy and cold – and for some reason, Hue Jackson decided his game plan was going to be throw rather than run. It is safe to say that was a bad choice."

Chris: "The Bengals have a rough stretch: a division road game against Cleveland, a tough home game against Denver, and then a division road game against Pittsburgh. Do you think the Bengals are going to prevail down the stretch to make the playoffs in a competitive division? And, if Cincinnati loses to Cleveland this week, how much would that change your opinion?"

Scott: "I do think the Bengals will make the playoffs and it may just come down to that tie. I believe the six seed in the AFC (maybe even the AFC North division winner) will only have nine wins, meaning if the Bengals get to nine wins, the tie will leave them with only six losses and therefore they would hold the tie-breaker against any other nine win team. If they lose to Cleveland, however, I would certainly feel less confident about their chances. I have the Denver game chalked up as a loss because I think the Broncos are a superior team and the game is in primetime – and we all know how the Bengals struggle on primetime. I do give the Bengals a good chance to win in Pittsburgh though. For whatever reason, under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have a better record against the Steelers in Pittsburgh (5-6) than they do in Cincinnati (2-11). I still believe the Bengals will get to at least nine wins (maybe ten) and because of the tie, I believe nine games will get them in."

Chris: "The last time these two teams met, Marshall Newhouse was forced into action at right tackle and was awful. Has he been benched? If so, what do you think of his replacement(s)?"

Scott: "Yes. Andre Smith returned the following week, but tore his triceps and was put on IR after their week 11 win in Houston. With Smith on IR, the Bengals have shuffled their offensive line. Marshall 'The Turnstile' Newhouse has been benched in favor or Clint Boling. Boling is a fourth year player out of Georgia and is the Bengals normal starting LG. Last week was his first start at RT and he played well, allowing one hurry and one hit on 42 pass plays. Pro Football Focus graded Boling’s effort at RT at a +0.6 in pass protection and +1.8 in the run game. With Boling sliding over to RT, Mike Pollak is filling in for Boling at LG and Pollak is a solid veteran guard – nothing special, but not a liability either. Either way, the line this Sunday should be much more stable than the line the Browns faced in Cincinnati."

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Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions.