For years, the Bengals have held supremacy over the Browns in the final standings of seasons while Cleveland has kept Cincinnati the little brother in head-to-head matchups. In 2023, Paul Brown’s first team wants to continue the latter while changing the former.
Both teams widdled their rosters down to the initial 53-man versions as required by the NFL. While each will make adjustments even before Week 1 (some have already been made), we want to analyze what the initial versions (from each team’s website, Cincinnati has years of service in paranthesis) looked like head-to-head as we did with the Browns 2022 and 2023 teams.
Quarterbacks (2): Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Deshaun Watson
QUARTERBACKS (2): Joe Burrow (4), Jake Browning (1)
Notes: Each goes with just two quarterbacks mostly knowing that if their top guy goes down it won’t matter who is behind them. Two young quarterbacks would be called on if something happens to the starters.
Advantage: Bengals - Until proven otherwise, Burrow is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and Watson once was. Cleveland’s QB has a chance to return to Burrow’s level but must prove it first.
Running backs (3): Nick Chubb, Jerome Ford, Pierre Strong Jr.
RUNNING BACKS (4): Joe Mixon (7), Trayveon Williams (5), Chris Evans (3), Chase Brown (R)
Notes: Chubb is one of, if not the, best back in the league. Cincinnati has more experienced backups but Mixon has fallen off the last couple of seasons.
Advantage: Browns - While depth can be important, Chubb is much better than Mixon which is far more important.
Wide receivers (6): David Bell, Amari Cooper, Marquise Goodwin, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Tyler Boyd (8), Tee Higgins (4), Trenton Irwin (4), Ja’Marr Chase (3), Charlie Jones (R), Andrei Iosivas (R)
Notes: Cleveland’s receiver group is better than last year but Cincinnati’s group is generally believed to be one of, if not the, best in the league.
Advantage: Bengals - Simple
Tight ends (3): Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant, David Njoku
TIGHT ENDS (3): Drew Sample (5), Irv Smith Jr. (5), Mitchell Wilcox (4)
Notes: Overall, not a great group of tight ends. Smith comes over from Minnesota hoping to make an impact in the middle of the field. Akins was signed in free agency to try to provide a secondary option for Cleveland.
Advantage: Browns - While fans may think Njoku is overpaid, he and Akins are the top two tight ends on this list.
Offensive linemen (9): Joel Bitonio, Jack Conklin, Nick Harris, James Hudson III, Dawand Jones, Ethan Pocic, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills Jr., Luke Wypler
OFFENSIVE LINE (10): C Ted Karras (8), LG Alex Cappa (6), LT Orlando Brown (6), G-T Cody Ford (5), G-C Max Scharping (5), T Jonah Williams (5), G-T Jackson Carman (3), C-G Trey Hill (3), T D’Ante Smith (3), LG Cordell Volson (2)
Notes: Offensive line play is mostly “eye of the beholder” without stats to back it up. Full disclosure, I believe Orlando Brown is an okay tackle but is now overpaid and still will need help versus many defensive ends. That being said, Teller hasn’t been elite for a season plus either.
Advantage: Browns - Closer than general narratives would say.
Defensive linemen (9): Jordan Elliott, Myles Garrett, Shelby Harris, Siaki Ika, Isaiah McGuire, Ogbo Okoronkwo, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Alex Wright
DEFENSIVE LINE (10): NT DJ Reader (8), E Trey Hendrickson (7), T B.J. Hill (6), E Sam Hubbard (6), NT Josh Tupou (6), E-T Cam Sample (3), E-T Joseph Ossai (3), T Jay Tufele (3), T Zach Carter (2), E Myles Murphy (R)
Notes: Even with all of the talented receivers, the defensive lines might have the most talent overall in this game.
Advantage: Neither - Really tough to give either side the advantage here. The Browns could have a better line but they have to prove it while the Bengals Reader, Hendrickson and Hubbard have been very good together.
Linebackers (7): Matthew Adams, Mohamoud Diabate, Tony Fields II, Jordan Kunaszyk, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sione Takitaki, Anthony Walker Jr.
LINEBACKERS (5): Germaine Pratt (5), Joe Bachie (4), Markus Bailey (4), Akeem Davis-Gaither (4), Logan Wilson (4)
Notes: Not a lot to love about Cleveland’s group while Wilson is a top-level ‘backer in the league.
Advantage: Bengals - The Browns group may be better with an improved defensive line but they have a lot to prove. It could be unlikely that they have the advantage over many teams this season at this position.
Defensive backs (11): D’Anthony Bell, Grant Delpit, M.J. Emerson Jr., Mike Ford Jr., A.J. Green, Ronnie Hickman, Rodney McLeod, Cameron Mitchell, Greg Newsome II, Juan Thornhill, Denzel Ward
SECONDARY (10): CB Chidobe Awuzie (7), CB Mike Hilton (7), S Nick Scott (5), CB Jalen Davis (4), S Tycen Anderson (2), S Dax Hill (2), CB Cam Taylor-Britt (2), S Jordan Battle (R), CB DJ Turner II (R), CB DJ Ivey (R)
Notes: A lot of turnovers for both teams. Cincinnati is hoping Dax and Battle, two young players, can make up for huge losses on the backend while Cleveland hopes they have shuffled the right type of players in and out.
Advantage: Browns - A lot of talent that must come together in Cleveland but the Bengals just aren’t at their level from a talent perspective.
Specialists (3): Corey Bojorquez, Dustin Hopkins, Charley Hughlett
SPECIALISTS (3): K Evan McPherson (3), LS Cal Adomitis (2), P Brad Robbins (R)
Notes: Unknowns at kicker for Cleveland and punter for Cincinnati could be interesting to watch for both teams this year. Given that one puts points on the board, kicker is much more important.
Advantage: Bengals - Money McPherson is a weapon for Cincinnati.
Overall Roster Advantage: Bengals - 4, Browns - 4, Tie - 1
Not on purpose in any way, we got a tie. While we are not looking at coaching, Cincinnati would get that edge there at this point. Obviously just judging overall groups doesn’t mean the two teams are equal overall.
Certain positions, like quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line have the most value in the league.
When you look at these rosters head-to-head, what stands out to you? Do you think we got the advantages correct?