This week, the(2-9) take on the (9-2) in Week 13 of the NFL regular season. Our position-by-position evaluation and game prediction are below.
|Cincinnati's go-to threats this week will be their wide receivers, as Tyler Eifert, who is the leading tight end in the NFL right now and had three touchdowns against the Browns in Week 9, is doubtful to play. That means a lot more action at the receiver position for A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. Given the Browns' horrid secondary play this year, Dalton should just step back and chuck it deep to any of those receivers, and he'll score a couple of times.
Travis Benjamin was held to 3 catches for 22 yards the last time these two teams met, but he'll remain a threat to stretch the field. Brian Hartline was inactive for the last meeting, but has secured 14 passes over his past two games. With Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel both out with concussions, the Browns' remaining receiving options are Marlon Moore, Dwayne Bowe, Terrelle Pryor, and Darius Jennings.
Moore will definitely be active, but because of Bowe's low usage last week, I think he'll also be inactive. Pryor will probably be inactive because he hasn't been with the club since training camp. I could see Jennings being the No. 3 receiver, ahead of Moore, because he probably worked with Austin Davis often considering their positions on the depth chart. Gary Barnidge only had 2 catches for 35 yards against Cincinnati in Week 9, but that came with Manziel under center and their chemistry wasn't quite there.
|OL||The Bengals' starting offensive line is as follows: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Clint Boling, C Russell Bodine, RG Kevin Zeitler, and RT Andre Smith. Eric Winston starting for Andre Smith the last time these teams met because Smith was dealing with a concussion. Whitworth and both of the guards will have stellar play, with Bodine and Smith being moderate liabilities as center and right tackle. They shouldn't have issues against a Cleveland defense that can't even take advantage of teams that are missing three starting offensive linemen (San Diego and Baltimore).
Cleveland's offensive line let Josh McCown take a beating last week, but much of the pressure seemed to come from the area of Cameron Erving, who has been filling in for the injured Joel Bitonio at left guard. The Browns just waived insurance lineman Darrian Miller on Saturday, which is a good sign that Bitonio will start again versus Cincinnati. I like the Browns' individual linemen as individuals, but until they start playing better as a cohesive unit or in the running game, they don't deserve a favorable ranking.
|DL||Nothing has changed since Week 9 -- the Bengals' starting defensive line consists of Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, and Michael Johnson. Dunlap leads the team with 8.5 sacks and is one of the best in the league at pressuring quarterbacks. Atkins has turned things up a notch too, logging 4 sacks (he has 8 on the season) and 7 quarterback hits in his past 5 games.
Randy Starks might return to the lineup this week as he comes back from a knee injury, but he's been a relative non-factor all year. Desmond Bryant gets credit for still being the team's best defensive lineman, but his production won't jump off the page when nobody else in the front seven are making physically dominant plays, and that includes Danny Shelton, who appeared to be moved off the ball too much last week and played a role in the field goal that was blocked. Worse yet, he's not standing out against backup centers who are filling in for bad teams.
|LB||Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey, Emmanuel Lamur, and A.J. Hawk will all see reps in the rotation, with Maualuga and Rey seeing more reps of that group.|
|DB||The Browns will be without Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert, as both players are out with concussions. Cleveland will want to keep K'Waun Williams in the slot while game-planning for a game, so Tramon Williams should see A.J. Green most of the night. Either Pierre Desir, Charles Gaines, or Johnson Bademosi will be the other outside cornerback, depending on their week of practice. My money is on Gaines, due to Desir's rapid fall from grace.
The Bengals' secondary features Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones as the starting cornerbacks, George Iloka and Reggie Nelson as the starting safeties, and Leon Hall as the nickelback. Jones, Hall, and Iloka all have injuries they are battling, and each of them are listed as questionable. They might all play, but given how limited they were in practice this week, I have a suspicion that at least one of them will take a seat this week.
This might be the first time I've ever given a team advantages across the board. The Browns have indeed hit rock bottom. Cleveland's offense is still respectable on an overall scale due to their passing game, but the team has yet another quarterback under center this week. The defensive efforts remain poor in just about every area -- tackling, run defense, pass defense, and pressure. Cincinnati had no issues with the Browns in their last go-around, so unless they shoot themselves in the foot over and over, they'll improve to 10-2.
Cincinnati Bengals 31, Cleveland Browns 14
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