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Browns vs Bengals: 3 things to watch in Week 1

A lot of really interesting matchups and storylines in Browns vs Bengals, here are three of the biggest

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Week 1 is upon us. This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns will kick off their 2023 campaign with the home opener against the defending AFC North champions, the Cincinnati Bengals. The game starts at 1:00 PM on CBS with Ian Eagle & Charles Davis on the call.

Going into this, there are 3 things to look for in this divisional matchup.

Browns cornerback trio versus Bengals wide receiver trio

Cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and Martin Emerson will be matched up against one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd.

It will be an exciting matchup between one of the upcoming cornerback trios against one of the best wide receiver trios in the league. Chase and Higgins have had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and both are primed for huge paydays. Chase is one of the best receivers in the league but Ward has proven that he can hold his own against the league’s best.

Higgins has been in the news because he is due for a new contract but he is still one of the best second receivers in the NFL. Whoever is matched up against Higgins will be tested. It will likely be Emerson who came on as a rookie for the Browns last season. Emerson has proven he can hold his own against the league’s best and Sunday will be no different.

As for the slot battle, Newsome and Boyd will likely be the matchup. Newsome was against playing in the slot but his stance has changed it appears. Newsome had a rough going at there last season but this year he seems ready to prove that last year was an aberration.

How QB Deshaun Watson looks with a full offseason

The last time we saw Deshaun Watson in the regular season, he looked like someone who hadn’t played football in over a year, as was expected.

This season, Watson seems to be locked in to prove he is in the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL. He also said that he doesn’t want to return to the person he was with the Houston Texans, instead, he wants to be better than that player. In his last season with Houston, despite the lackluster supporting cast around him, Watson was statistically a top 5 quarterback. He ranked in the top 10 in EPA per/play his last season which ranks efficiency and Watson was up there with the top-tier quarterbacks.

Not only does Watson feel confident but his teammates believe Watson is getting close to what he once was when he was with the Texans. Linebacker Anthony Walker expressed his confidence in Watson after practice on Wednesday:

Watson looked comfortable in the preseason, he looked in control and confident in the offense. All Watson has to do is prove that he is that guy that Cleveland traded for.

How the new-look Cleveland Browns defense will look against one of the best offenses in the league

Cleveland’s defense was re-shaped entirely this offseason.

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods is out, Jim Schwartz is in. The interior defensive line received massive upgrades in both free agency and in the NFL draft. Defensive tackles Shelby Harris, Dalvin Tomlinson and Maurice Hurst are the free agency pickups while Siaka Ika was the Browns 3rd round selection in this past draft.

The edge rusher group received upgrades in Za’Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo to help defensive end Myles Garrett, and the secondary received a massive upgrade with safeties Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod.

Regardless if it was preseason, the defense looks 10 times better than last season. The players are playing fast, with confidence and everyone seems to be on the same page with the mindset that Schwartz has installed with them.

Sunday will be a test for this unit and it will be interesting to see how they will look.

What are you looking forward to seeing/finding out about the Browns on Sunday?