We Meet Again — What’s Changed with Cincinnati?
- Last year, the Browns took the first game at home against Cincinnati, before losing the road re-match in Week 17 to a team that had only had one win heading into the game.
- In 2020, the Browns have a Week 2 win over the Bengals, but they’ve also been torn apart by the Ravens and Steelers. Despite the final score of that Week 2 game being 35-30, Cleveland’s offense kept scoring all game long, never letting Cincinnati catch up. Mayfield was efficient with the passing game, but the running game is what thrived with over 200+ yards rushing.
- Cincinnati has patched things up a little bit, and they have Geno Atkins back this time around. Their offensive line protection is marginally better. Make no mistake about it, though — Cincinnati still has a lot of holes, and two more of them were created this week with injuries to RB Joe Mixon and CB William Jackson.
- Mixon may have only had 3.6 YPC this season, but that is a byproduct of the Bengals’ poor run defense. Mixon has been a workhorse back for Cincinnati, and was good at getting yards after contact. RB Giovani Bernard is familiar to Browns fans because of all the years he’s been in the league. However, the 8 carries (for just 15 yards) were the most attempts he’s had on the ground since early in the 2018 season. He has been utilized as more of a receiving or blocking back. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals try to utilize one of their unknown running backs as the main ballcarrier, but either way, it causes some disruption to the offensive backfield for Joe Burrow and company.
- Jackson is the Bengals’ best cornerback, both in run support and at defending the pass. That should open the door for WR Odell Beckham Jr. and WR Jarvis Landry to get some favorable match-ups that you’d expect receivers of their caliber to win.
- The biggest key for the Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski this week is to stay focused. Against four teams in which the Browns had superior blocking up front, the offense thrived. In two games where the defense had front sevens that could create havoc in the physicality department, they couldn’t muster more than a touchdown. The Bengals’ defense is no where near what Baltimore and Pittsburgh have, and we’ve seen what the result of that has been: a lock for 30+ points for Cleveland.
- Each week, ChadP71 on Twitter posts PFF grades for the Browns’ offense and defense. I haven’t highlighted them here before, but it’s worth doing heading into this game:
- On offense, everyone is playing at an above average level or high quality level, except for LT Jedrick Wills and QB Baker Mayfield. Ideally, those would be better marks for Wills and Mayfield, but Wills will get better with experience, and Mayfield’s gameplay can be effective if managed appropriately by Stefanski.
Part 2 of 2 #CLEvsCIN #Browns— ChadP71 Running Dirty (@chadp71) October 24, 2020
Week 7 Unofficial Defensive Depth Chart with PFF overall color grades, rankings, key match-ups, year to date snap count and injury report. The Browns defense has been crushed with injuries. pic.twitter.com/izTodugMZD
- The defense is where it gets uglier for Cleveland. We talk about the linebackers and safeties being the liabilities, and that is evident above: both safeties are below average, while the linebacker group is average at best. A little discouraging is to see the defensive line not being as effective as it should be with Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson. The biggest positional element that stands out is seeing Ronnie Harrison and Sheldrick Redwine as the backups, yet having above average grades. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods has to make the switch there.
- Against the Bengals, I like having Kevin Johnson this time around to defend an extra receiver when Burrow gets pressured. That offensive line will not be able to contain Myles Garrett and company. Cleveland had 3 sacks and 7 quarterback hits back in Week 2, while Cincinnati didn’t even hit Mayfield once all game.
Keep the Gas On, Send a Message of Starting & Finishing
- This is obviously easier said than done, but Cleveland could really use a complete football game. During their four-game winning streak, they still faced questions each week: Against Cincinnati, the offense had to keep scoring because the pass defense couldn’t stop Burrow either. Against Washington, Cleveland lost the lead heading into the fourth quarter. Against Dallas, Cleveland nearly allowed a huge comeback. Against Indianapolis, after a pick six, the special teams unit allowed a touchdown. Yes, the Browns found ways in each game to put the final nail in the coffin, but there were lapses that say it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.
- The Browns need to have that mentality against Cincinnati — start strong, finish strong, and put together a decisive win, and start fueling the team to know the type of execution they’ll eventually need to have to compete with the likes of Tennessee, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh later this season.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Although I do think Wyatt Teller makes a big difference over Chris Hubbard, Hubbard and the rest of the offensive line are talented enough to create holes in the running game and protect Baker Mayfield, elements that were both absent in a major way against Pittsburgh. Although it’s not good for the long-term to erase the Baltimore and Pittsburgh games from memory, Cleveland isn’t going up against that type of team this week. Joe Burrow kept Cincinnati ‘in the game’ against Cleveland in Week 2 thanks to some great throws under pressure, but I don’t think he’ll be as fortunate this time around.” Browns 31, Bengals 17
Thomas Moore: “If there was ever a day for the Browns to break out the old school offense, this week against the Cincinnati Bengals is the perfect opportunity. The Bengals are giving up 142.3 rushing yards per game, allowing 5.1 yards per carry, and allowed 10 runs of 20-plus yards. Meanwhile, the Browns come into the game without tight end Austin Hooper, wide receiver Jarvis Landry nursing a broken rib, and quarterback Baker Mayfield dealing with an extremely sore right side (at least we hope that is all that is going on.) The Browns need to pound the ball on the ground, deal with OBJ being upset about another low-production day, beat on Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, and head back home without any more damage and a win in their pocket.” Browns 28, Bengals 10
Barry Shuck: “The Bengals have one of the worst run defenses in the league. Hopefully, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson will be called upon to show just how bad that defensive aspect really is. In the first meeting, the Browns got way ahead and just couldn’t put Cincy away. That won’t happen this time around and the game should not even be close which will result in another victory to up their record to 5-2-0.” Browns 41, Bengals 20
Ezweav: “Well last week was a complete thud. Seems like the Steeler defense was in our huddle the entire day - also Baker was lousy. However defensively, we actually got Pittsburgh off the field quite a few times, and while they ended up piling on points, it had more to do with having to keep going back out there after the offense did nothing.
Thus, this one against the Bangles will be close like the last time, but with better defense played by both squads. While this seems like a game we should come away with, we somehow won’t.” Bengals 19, Browns 18
rufio: “Baker and the offense get back on track this week, re-establishing the running game against the Bengals.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns defense continues to expand, throwing a few looks at Burrow and company that we didn’t in the first matchup. Without Joe Mixon in the lineup, the schematic evolution of the Browns defense, and because of the expanded role of players like Ronnie Harrison Jr and Sheldrick Redwine, we see a few turnovers from the Bengals en route to a Browns win.” Browns 28, Bengals 16
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.