This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals. To help preview a few topics from the Bengals’ perspective, we reached out to Anthony Cosenza from Cincy Jungle and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 6-point underdogs against the Bengals.
Chris: “The Bengals have been stacking up big wins and haven’t lost since being dominated by the Browns on Halloween night, 32-13. From a gameplan perspective, what is something you want the Bengals’ offense to do different against the Browns this time around?”
Anthony: “Aside from Zac Taylor’s Bengals just not matching up well with this iteration of the Browns, Cincinnati had two major injuries in the first matchup—on apiece on each side of the ball. Of course, the Ja’Marr Chase injury blindsided many, at least in terms of the severity, and I contend the late-week scratch of him and subsequent news of the injury timeline threw the game plan off. On defense, run stuffer D.J. Reader was out with a knee injury, helping to let Nick Chubb be his usual insanely productive self.
But, really, those are kind of excuses for the outcome. The Bengals just haven’t found a formula for success against Kevin Stefanski’s Browns. On defense, there are two routes to take with Deshaun Watson back, and I’m not sure which one is the best.
They can do what they’ve done against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, dropping eight in coverage, playing a bit more contain up front to disallow Watson to make plays with his legs, while also having him try to dissect the defense after taking a year and a half off from football.
The downside to that is major room for running backs in shotgun or RPOs, and the secondary needs to hold up immensely with a potentially less potent pass-rush. Cincinnati could also sell out on the run from Watson, Chubb and/or Kareem Hunt and force Watson to shake off rust quickly in the passing attack. I see both wisdom and risk in both there, but probably would rather see them take away the run because they haven’t been able to do that at all.
On offense, they just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing these past few weeks. Protect Burrow, have effective first down plays and play turnover-free football. Pretty simple, right? We’ll see.”
Chris: “Deshaun Watson made his debut last week and was beyond rusty. Personally, it’s hard for me to see how he can flip the switch and get acclimated to game speed with just one more week of practice. Heading into this game, are you almost happy to be facing Watson instead of Jacoby Brissett?”
Anthony: “Not for me because we’ve seen and know the ceilings of both of these players. Brissett is an admirable game manager and was one of the best stopgap starting options the Browns could have asked for in the scenario. Before his time away/suspension, Watson was a perennial Pro Bowl player—it’s now a matter of him getting reacclimated to game speed, getting in “game shape” and gelling with his teammates.
Watson is 1-1 in his career against Cincinnati, with the loss coming in last-minute fashion back in 2020. Additionally, Cincinnati has this dubious streak of not playing well against unfamiliar/rookie quarterbacks and/or ones they haven’t seen a lot of tape on in some time. So, no, not excited for the Bengals’ defense to face Watson, especially after he’s had a game and now a week’s worth of practice under his belt.”
Chris: “Ja’Marr Chase made his return to action last week against the Chiefs. How big is his return for the Cincinnati offense?”
Anthony: “Huge, but the Bengals did go 3-1 in his absence, with Tee Higgins racking up two 100-yard games. That lone loss was against the Browns, and as I said, I feel the late-week scratch and news really threw everything off-kilter.
Last week against Kansas City, he stepped right in and had nearly 100 yards, including an incompletion that would have been a catch for the ages and other high-effort, yards-after-the-catch plays. The Bengals having all of their top wideouts and potentially both featured running backs behind a rebuilt line that is finally gelling is definitely big against a Browns defense that has given Cincinnati fits.”
Chris: “Comparing the last time the Browns faced the Bengals, are there any other injury-related changes we should be aware of (additions or subtractions), besides Chase?”
Anthony: “Chase is back, yes, and it seems like Joe Mixon might be as well, after missing the past two and a half games with a concussion. They’re 3-0 without him and Samaje Perine has been playing very well, but the last time we saw a fully healthy Mixon, he put up five touchdowns and over 200 total yards from scrimmage.
Pass-catching tight end Hayden Hurst injured his calf last week and sounds like he’s doubtful against the Browns, putting the spotlight on backups Devin Asiasi and Mitchell Wilcox. Of course, stud corner Chidobe Awuzie is out for the year, but otherwise, there shouldn’t be many surprises.
Also in the ‘back’ column along with Reader is fellow mammoth defensive tackle Josh Tupou, who also missed the first go-round with Cleveland.”
Chris: “The Browns are 6-point underdogs to the Bengals as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Who would you pick against the spread?”
Anthony: “I waver on this. On one hand, Cincinnati is extremely hot and playing as well, if not better than at any point in this or last season. They are getting healthier and may be chomping at the bit to try and start evening the score against the Browns.
But, the team is coming off of two HUGE, emotional wins, Watson is back and could raise the Browns’ roster, while Cincinnati has that singular win in Taylor’s tenure against Cleveland. I’ll say Cincinnati wins, but does not cover.”
Thanks again to Anthony for taking the time to answer my questions.