This Sunday, the Cincy Jungle and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!take on the in Week 13 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Scott Bantel from
Joe: "The Browns and the Bengals are obviously headed in completely different directions. The Browns are headed towards the top of the 2016 NFL Draft order, the Bengals are at the top of the playoff heap. How far can the Bengals go this season? Is a lengthy playoff run, or even a Super Bowl appearance, possible for the Bengals?"
Scott: "I do believe this team is built for a deep playoff run and they are talented enough to win a Super Bowl. In my opinion, the Bengals are the most balanced team in the NFL and may have the best overall roster as well. Does that mean they are the best team in the NFL? Certainly not. This is a quarterback league, and as well as Dalton has played, I don’t believe he can carry a team in the playoffs the way guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning (of old), etc. can.
However, talent doesn’t win in the playoffs - game plans and execution do - and as we have seen the past four years, the Bengals have been outcoached and out executed in embarrassing fashion. Getting to the playoffs is no longer acceptable for this team. If they don’t win, it is a failure and as a result, this is a team that has a lot of pressure on them to win in the playoffs. With four straight first round exits and 25 years since they last won a playoff game, there isn’t a monkey they have to get off their back, it is an 800 pound gorilla. "
Joe: "Since defeating the Browns on Thursday Night Football, the Bengals have scuffled a bit, losing two of their last three. Are there any signs of concern from the fan base, or did the 31-7 win over the Rams silence all the alarmists?"
Scott: "There was a little concern (and frustration), especially after the loss at home to Houston, but I think that concern has been put to rest the last two weeks.
The Houston game was a perfect storm of bad football and circumstance. With a primetime matchup the following week against Carson Palmer and a hot Arizona team, it was the classic "trap game," throw in a lot of early down penalties, self-inflicted wounds (fumbles and drops) and a Houston team that was just getting going, and it resulted in an ugly loss.
The Arizona game was actually encouraging. In my opinion, the Cardinals are the best, and most complete team in the NFC and the Bengals put up 31 points on them, on the road, and were inches from winning on their final drive. The only discouraging part about the Cardinals game was the surrendering of 34 points, but that is a good offense and the Bengals were missing two of their top two corners – including their best corner, Adam Jones.
As for last week, the Rams offense is so bad, so no one was going to get too excited about beating a bad Rams team, but putting up 31 points for a second straight week – against another good defense – was encouraging. If the Bengals can put up 31 on the Rams and Cardinals defenses, they should be able to score against any defense."
Joe: "When discussing the Bengals' offense, everyone inevitably talks about Andy Dalton and AJ Green. However, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill have formed a two-headed monster in the backfield, combining for over 1,000 yards. Which running back has performed better down the stretch, and how will the two backs be used against the Browns? "
Scott: "Thus far, Bernard has greatly outperformed Hill – which is the reverse from last year. Jeremy Hill had really been struggling until last week’s 16 carry, 86 yard (5.4 YPC) performance against a good Rams defense. If the Bengals can get Hill going down the stretch in these colder games, that will be huge.
With the Browns giving up 4.6 YPC, I would expect a heavy dose of both running backs on Sunday. The odd part is the Bengals have rarely been able to get both backs going at the same time – for example, last week Hill had 86 yards and a 5.4 average, while Bernard had just 16 yards and a 1.6 average. The only team they have had success in getting both backs going…Cleveland – Hill and Bernard combined for 124 yards on 28 carries (4.4) in the first matchup this year and 227 yards on 40 carries (5.7) their last trip to Cleveland."
Joe: "The Bengals' defensive line dominated the Browns' offensive line in the last matchup. The Browns could not get the run or pass game going. Carlos Dunlap led the Bengals with four tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits. How can the Browns slow down the Bengals' defensive line. "
Scott: "The Bengals strength on defense is indeed the defensive line and because they rotate seven or eight guys, their line is always fresh. Dunlap and Geno Atkins will be the two guys the Browns will need to key on. If I were the Browns, even though Alex Mack is one of the top centers, I would use a guard to double up on Atkins, and then use a back (or tight end) to chip Dunlap and allow Joe Thomas to handle Michael Johnson one-on-one."
Joe: "The Bengals have not swept the season series against the Browns since 2011. Are Bengals fans nervous at all about the game or completely confident after the Browns' MNF loss to the Ravens? Also, what's your prediction for the game and why?"
Scott: "This is not a fan base that is ever "completely confident" about anything – at least no fan that lived through the 1990’s! And, you bring up a great point, despite making the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, Andy Dalton has only swept the Browns once – his rookie season. That being said, I do see them sweeping the Browns this year. There are so many distractions going on in Cleveland right now – both on the team and in the executive offices. Unless the Browns are able to use the distractions as something to rally on, I don’t see them winning this game – the Bengals have too much to play for. With the quarterback soap opera and Monday’s heartbreaking loss, I see the Browns having a sloppy game. Bengals 37, Browns 13. "
Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions.