Seeking any hope beyond just playing out a string of meaningless games while hoping QB Deshaun Watson shows the upside longed for, the Cleveland Browns face off with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. For the Browns, this is one last-ditch hope of keeping the season alive with a victory over an AFC North rival.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are hoping to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens at the top of the division. At 4-3, Cincinnati hasn’t had the start that they hoped for but that has been true for a lot of teams around the NFL this year.
Before tonight’s game, I took a look at the Bengals games so far this year to see if there is anything we can learn. Why did they win? Why did they lose?
All three of their losses have come by three points including two to quality teams (Dallas and Baltimore). Their Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was mostly due to failures with their kicking unit.
- The three losses were Cincinnati’s lowest point outputs of the seasons: 17 (twice) and 20
- Two out of the three came on the road
- QB Joe Burrow struggled in different ways in each loss: 4 INTs in Week 1, under 200 yards versus the Cowboys and just over 200 yards and an INT versus the Ravens
- Interestingly, RB Joe Mixon had his best games in Bengals losses
- The defense only had one sack in each loss
Three of the four Cincinnati victories came against teams that are doing better in 2022 than many thought they would: New York Jets, Miami and Atlanta. The other victory came against the New Orleans Saints who have struggled due to significant injuries on the offensive side of the ball.
- The defense held three of the opponents to 17 points or less (17, 15 and 12)
- Burrow had 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the four victories
- Three different receivers (their three stars) led the team in yardage in the four different games
- Mixon had 61 yards rushing or less in all four wins (61, 58, 45 and 24)
- Bengals had nine sacks and 20 tackles for loss combined in their four victories
The results of a quick review of Cincinnati’s season so far are not surprising. To beat the Bengals the Browns must:
- Win the turnover battle
- Limit Burrow
- Score 20 or more points (which they have six of seven games)
- Protect QB Jacoby Brissett and limit the number of negative plays
- Strangely, at least based on their season so far, let Mixon have a good (not great) game
- Have the crowd make things tough on Cincinnati’s offense
Possible? Sure. Likely? Given the team’s struggles on defense, probably not but that is why the games are played.
What do you think the most important thing for the Browns to do tonight to beat the Bengals?