This Monday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
All the Noise Surrounding the Browns
- The Browns have had the Bengals’ number the past two years. Last year, they handed the AFC Champions their worst loss of the season by a score of 41-16. Joe Burrow threw a 99-yard pick six to open up the game, Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a 60-yard touchdown pass, and Nick Chubb had a 70-yard touchdown run. It was a day filled with big plays against a defense that has just had a lot of difficulty stopping this Cleveland offense.
- Even with Cleveland’s struggles this season, we’re talking about a league where every team has their shortcomings — so for the Browns to have lost four straight games, the odds have been against them. Even though the 2-5 record might not indicate it, the eye test knows that Cleveland has gone down-to-the-wire in six of seven games and in their losses have lacked that one play to be the difference maker.
- The Browns face some more adversity this week with RG Wyatt Teller and TE David Njoku out on offense. On defense, CB Denzel Ward is still out with a concussion. Compounding issues with the depth at tight end and cornerback is that Pharoah Brown, Greg Newsome, and Greedy Williams are all questionable to play with various ailments. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is also questionable.
- Another question is whether this could be Kareem Hunt’s final game as a member of the Browns, with the trade deadline coming up. Although Cleveland’s two-headed monster is an amazing luxury to have, at 2-5 and Hunt not under contract for next season, it makes sense to pick up an asset in the draft. D’Ernest Johnson has not been utilized at all this season, but after an impressive 2021 year in relief (aside from some fumbles), it wouldn’t seem to be a massive downgrade for the offense to have Johnson as the relief back to Nick Chubb.
- Despite all the noise, this is the type of game where you figure the Browns will want to pull out all the stops for a win. They have a bye week coming up, and getting into that bye week at 3-5 — with Deshaun Watson’s return less than a month away — would have the team in better spirits. And as much as the Browns’ losses to date have been demoralizing, if you have a 2-1 division record with Watson coming back, that gives you a chance to go 5-1 within the division, which could make things interesting down the stretch. If you lose this week, though, 2-6 pretty much cements it as a lost season.
From the Bengals’ Perspective
- After a rough start to the season — I mean, this Bengals team lost to the Steelers, if you can believe that — their offense has really pulled it together. In his last five games, Joe Burrow has thrown 13 touchdowns to just 1 interception. In his last two games (wins over the Saint and Falcons), he’s thrown for 6 touchdowns and 781 yards passing.
- But this Cincinnati offense isn’t far different from what we’ve seen in the past. Burrow is really good and can spark the passing game at any moment, but he still takes a lot of hits and sacks, having been sacked 24 times on the season. The Bengals also still don’t get a big push in the running game, with Joe Mixon averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Mixon himself is a good runner, of course, so the Browns must be on top of their run defense to prevent another Austin Ekeler situation from happening.
- The Bengals will be without Ja’Marr Chase this week, which is certainly a help for Cleveland, given their cornerback injuries. However, PFF has the Bengals’ wide receiver group ranked first in the NFL, with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd being just as potent threats.
This is still the best wide receiver corps in the NFL, and it’s playing like it once again. All three receivers are capable of going for over 125 yards in any given week — that’s what makes them so dangerous. The Bengals would be wise to add some more speed to the bottom of this unit, but there really isn’t much else to knock here.
- The Browns’ wide receiver group, meanwhile, is ranked No. 22 by PFF, and will be facing a Bengals’ secondary that hasn’t allowed a ton of yards this season. With David Njoku out, Cleveland needs another receiver to step up — I’m hoping that will be Kareem Hunt, but if it’s not a running back, then this could be David Bell or Michael Woods’ time to shine. Anthony Schwartz was a healthy scratch last week.
Amari Cooper has been everything the Browns could have hoped for and more when they acquired him via trade this offseason. He is a perfect fit in the offense, already having a huge impact. The problem is that the Browns haven’t gotten enough from the receivers not named Cooper. Peoples-Jones has been fine, but he is a bit unreliable. Everyone else on the roster is grading out well below average this season.
- Cade York seemed to kick confidently against the Ravens last week, and even though his 61-yarder was blocked to end the game, he thought it would go in if it hadn’t been blocked. Cleveland needs all the help they can get, as York’s field goals helped add up to keep them in the game last week.
- Although there haven’t been any rumors about coaching changes with the Browns, one has to wonder if the bye week would be a time to make a change if Joe Woods’ group were to lay another egg on defense. To be fair, the group is coming off their best game of the season against the Ravens, and it helped that Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney were both able to play again. Garrett, coming off the car accident a month ago, has been playing his ass off.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 3 point underdogs against the Bengals.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “For whatever reasons, call it...fate, call it luck, call it karma, I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe that we were destined to get thrown outta this funk on Halloween night.” Browns 31, Bengals 24
Thomas Moore: “As bad as things have been in recent years for the Browns they have somehow found a way to go 7-1 against the Bengals since the start of the 2018 season. That includes a 3-0 record with Joe Burrow as Cincinnati’s quarterback as the Browns have 3 interceptions of Burrow and notched a dozen sacks. This series has been filled with bizarre moments and Monday night should be no exception as the Browns desperately try to avoid turning into pumpkins on Halloween night. Look for the Browns to continue one of the league’s strangest streaks and head into the bye week celebrating a Victory Tuesday.” Browns 38, Bengals 28
Barry Shuck: “On one hand, I have zero faith in any portion of this team other than the run game and all parts associated with this aspect of the club. The other hand is screaming to me that the Browns actually play alongside the better teams and keep those games tight and actually, shoulda, coulda, woulda won some in not all. The Bengals are a very good team. So, instead of my inclination to predict a slaughter, let’s say the Browns will lose - just barely.
Obviously, no consolation for any club is 2-6 with the playoff tunnel’s light getting dimmer each week. Joe Burrow is the league’s second-leading quarterback. Cincinnati is the second-best passing team with the second-best amount of touchdowns scored. Their running attack is pretty dismal so thank goodness we won’t have another 200+ yards run all over us this week. Or will we? The Chargers were the worst rushing club and made their guy look like a Hall of Famer. We can run and we can sometimes pass. They are pass-happy and we will see if the rookie Martin Emerson has what it takes. And Cincy has beaten some good clubs like Miami, Atlanta and the Jets and lost to two good teams in Dallas and Baltimore. Those two losses were by a sum total of five points. So, they are legit.” Bengals 27, Browns 20
Jared Mueller: “This game is going to be a very very weird one. Not only is it Halloween night and a divisional matchup but the two teams are going in different directions.
Strangely, the Browns have played the Bengals tough even when the talent difference was great. Joe Haden, who is being honored at this game, used to give AJ Green fits up and down the field, year after year.
Of course, I can’t predict a Cleveland victory. If Denzel Ward is able to play it would be closer to a toss-up but given the recent trends, Cincinnati comes up Route 71 and does just enough to win on an Evan McPherson field goal.” Bengals 27, Browns 24
Ezweav: “A few weeks’ back I noted that the Patriots are just a bad matchup for us. Well, I think we’re a bad matchup for the Bengals this week in the same way. Jonah Williams has been a pretty good left tackle in the league but he simply cannot handle Myles Garrett. Their defense is fairly stout but we have absolutely chewed them up on the ground basically since Nick Chubb was drafted.
Some folks think the team has already packed it in and won’t show up anymore because the season’s basically over. I understand frustration because of the loss but I don’t see how you watch that game in Baltimore and conclude that guys don’t care. I think there’s a boiling over anger combined with some scheme advantages on both sides of the ball that leads to much different conclusion than people are expecting Monday Night.” Browns 34, Bengals 19
Matt Wood: “Can the DL dominate a game? Joe Burrow is red hot but that can be slowed down with a pass rush. The Browns have had the Bengals number in the past and I think it continues. Browns ride Chubb and I think we see a lot more Hunt this week too, maybe even as a trade showcase. Browns play keep away, force Joe Burrow into some pressured throws and get the 27-23 win.” Browns 27, Bengals 23
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.