This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
All Eyes on Watson
- I'd love to be able to predict that Deshaun Watson will be able to shake off the rust this week and keep the Browns in the game against the Bengals. To a degree, we saw a level of rust with Jacoby Brissett in Week 1 against the Panthers because he had taken very few reps in the preseason. But those were some synchronization issues, like having delay of game penalties, and some inaccuracy with his throwing.
- With Watson, he seemed to know the offense, but after the snap, he was really bad. He took deep drops that seemed to confuse the tackles, he bailed at pressure, and he had a lot of incompletions in the dirt. Even on some of the completions he had, he was guiding the throws in there, with the TV announcers making a ridiculous claim like, "There's the old Watson!" when it was such a basic throw. I have no doubt that Watson will eventually get back to his former self, but I just can't fathom how he'll improve that vastly against the Bengals.
Something Has to Give
- The Browns could rarely beat Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco during their careers. Can Cleveland really continue to have the reverse effect on Joe Burrow, who they are 4-0 against?
- We've seen some stories this week about why the Browns' defense is successful against Cincinnati at times: they don't run the ball well, they don't do playaction, and there isn't much pre-snap movement. With other teams, Cincinnati’s talented receivers can beat the opposition despite all that. Against the group Cleveland has put together, they thrive against that, relatively speaking.
- Something has to give, though. The Bengals have the edge here of recognizing what they've struggled with against Cleveland. If the Bengals get hot, I just can't imagine Watson being in sync enough yet to match them.
- It's remarkable how Donovan Peoples-Jones has turned into an overnight threat on punt returns. Running north-south is what Josh Cribbs used to do, and DPJ is starting to run like him on returns.
- Amari Cooper hurt his hip this week in practice, but is hopeful to play on Sunday. David Njoku will return to action, which could be the single biggest factor that does help Watson get into a groove.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 5.5-point underdogs against the Bengals.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I'd love to pick the Browns like I did on Halloween night, but I can't see us replicating that domination, and then I think Deshaun Watson will continue to make the offense stagnant.” Bengals 31, Browns 17
Barry Shuck: “Like the Bengals own the Chiefs, the Browns do very well against Cincinnati. In the Week 8 win over Cincy, they dominated them to the tune of 32-13. It was the most complete game of the season regarding the offense, defense, and special teams. Only 36 rushing yards is what Cincy could muster on that day. The Bengals are a very good team and should win the division again and then face the Bills in the AFC Championship Game. They have beaten the Jets, Dolphins, Titans, and Chiefs which means they can defeat the better clubs. But now the game is on the road. Burrow has the second-most passing yards and that offense is clicking. Cleveland is 12th against the pass. Three really good receivers plus a fine tight end are going to be a nightmare. And do we have a QB or not? Last game against the worst team in the league the Browns had zero offense.” Bengals 37, Browns 17
Thomas Moore: “The Browns are 8-1 against the Bengals since the start of the 2018 season, which is one of the oddest and most unbelievable streaks in recent franchise history. Cleveland has exerted its dominance over the Bengals thanks in large part to its defense, which has terrorized Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow from the pocket with defensive end Myles Garrett and on the back end of the defense with solid play from the secondary against the Bengals’ talented receivers. Cincinnati fans will try to brush off the losing streak as no big deal since the Bengals played in the Super Bowl last season, but they would be just as quick to trade their 0-3 record in title games for just one of Cleveland’s eight championships.
Offensively, Nick Chubb has had his way against Cincinnati’s defense, averaging 5.34 yards per carry and rushing for seven touchdowns in eight career games while surpassing 100 rushing yards five times. Chubb’s dominance will take some of the pressure off of quarterback Deshaun Watson, who should look better in his second game back than he did last week against the Houston Texans, as the Browns continue their mastery of the Bengals and keep their slim playoff hopes alive for another week.” Browns 31, Bengals 20
Jared Mueller: “The Cleveland Browns have had the Cincinnati Bengals number for quite some time but it is hard to believe that will continue. If it does, either Myles Garrett continues to just dominate the Bengals offensive line or Deshaun Watson returns to elite status after a poor showing in his return game. Both would be nice.
In the end, a competitive game comes down to Burrow making a play to Ja’Marr Chase that seals the game for the home team.” Bengals 30, Browns 28
Matt Wood: “Don’t know what it is, but the Browns have the Bengals number. This is the perfect trap spot for the Bengals too, coming off the win against the Chiefs they are once again the media darling. On the flip side, the Browns are dangerous. They HAVE to win on Sunday. Watson looked ROUGH on Sunday and you had to expect that it was going to take some time. Can he go toe to toe with a red hot Burrow?
I’ve said it before, expect the unexpected in the NFL. Browns are the more desperate team and it shows on Sunday. Here is my hot take, Myles Garrett takes a massive leap into the MVP discussion as he single handily wrecks the Bengals passing game with 3 sacks. Browns offense does just enough to get the win and stay in the hunt.” Browns 29, Bengals 20
Ezweav: “I feel kinda bad for Bengals’ fans this week. On one hand, beating Kansas City three straight times shows that their advantage is very real and inarguable. But if that’s the case, then they take a look at us…it just has to be nerve wracking.
To review, the last three QB’s to start for us against them are Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum and Jacoby Brissett. All dubs. The notion that DeShaun Watson’s “rust” will imperil us in this one doesn’t really pass the smell test. You would have to believe that his entire career has been the outlier and last week is now the rule, and that isn’t reasonable by any measure.
But whether or not he’s fully up to speed for this game, the fact still remains that the Bangles have no answer for Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, and if the last game is any indication - Amari Cooper.
However we do have answers for their biggest weapons. Denzel Ward essentially erased Ja’Marr Chase last year, and also apparently got all up in his head as he revealed during the offseason. They both missed the first matchup but are both in the lineup this week. The Bengals have fantastic complements but so do we. Thus, we can neutralize their best weapons while also putting a pressure on Burrow that has been proven to be insurmountable.
In other words, we got their number. And there really isn’t anything different from the first matchup other than we have a better quarterback. Good guys roll” Browns 32, Bengals 18
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.