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Browns vs. Bengals NFL Week 18 Preview and Prediction - Stay healthy, everyone

Cleveland closes out the regular season.

Cleveland Browns Practice Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.

Game Analysis

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Rest Up, Everyone

  • You hear about teams resting players in the regular season all the time when they have a playoff spot locked up, but this is truly a first in my cognizant lifetime. Before this season, the Browns made the playoffs two other times since 1999, but in both of those years, they needed to defeat the Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers in the final week of the regular season in order to advance. This year, the Browns officially clinched the No. 5 seed with their victory over the New York Jets last Thursday.
  • This is an exhibition game for Cleveland. It means nothing as far as win-loss record, seeding, etc goes. A loss will do nothing to hurt the morale of the team. A win would still be fun, and our backups will be pumped up to make an impression. But this is mostly a rest week for our guys. The only thing we’re paranoid about is whether any starters will have to play, and if they do, hopefully they don’t suffer an injury.
  • I did an article earlier this week about who the Browns might feature in their starting lineup. Cleveland will also get to tout the unique stat that they started five quarterbacks in their playoff season (and if Jeff Driskell gets the win, he can pad the stat to make it five different winning quarterbacks). There is already one adjustment to my projected lineup, which would be because CB Mike Ford has been ruled out of this week’s game. Cleveland might let rookie CB Cameron Mitchell play the whole game instead, but I am also expecting someone like CB A.J. Green to get that other practice squad call-up.
  • There’s not much to break down from the Bengals’ perspective. I don’t think they’ll phone it in per se, but if Cleveland punches them in the mouth and looks more motivated, I could see Cincinnati being a bit lackluster. Their receiver situation is also a bit fluid, since JaMarr Chase and Tee Higgins both want to be paid, but neither benefits from playing in this final game.
  • Some Browns fans have said they may not watch the game this week, which is understandable. But I am still hooked to see if — besides me blogging the recap article, a lot of our depth players are key contributors this season, and I want to see how these guys do. I’d love for Cleveland to get to that 12-win mark too.

Quick Hitters


Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.

Chris Pokorny: “I’m sticking with my optimistic prediction that Cleveland’s backups will be motivated to win, while Cincinnati will be a bit lackluster.” Browns 20, Bengals 17

Thomas Moore: “Week 18 of the NFL brings with it a sea of uncertainty in what has become, for some teams, essentially a second bye week. There are two indisputable facts about this week’s game, however, which is that the Browns are heading to playoffs while the Bengals are closing out their 56th consecutive season without a league title - an impressive feat for a team that has been playing football for 56 seasons! The Browns have won nine of the past 11 meetings between the two teams but will be resting as many key players as possible, so this game amounts to the Super Bowl for a Bengals team that presumably has grown tired of being slapped around by their older brother in the Battle of Ohio and is looking to avoid going winless in the AFC North.

A 12-win season from the Browns would be nice, but the team has bigger goals in mind starting next week and it is next to impossible to know what the offense will look like with Jeff Driskely at quarterback or the defense without its best players. Pride is a strong motivator, the backups should be eager to show what they can do, and someone has to win the game, so why not Cleveland?” Browns 10, Bengals 7

Barry Shuck: “The final game against Cincy? Do not care. What I do care about is going into the first round of playoffs healthy. Play the two practice squad players, then the bottom of the roster beginning with player #53, then player #52, 51, 50, 49, etc. My thoughts are Cincinnati will play a lot of backups as well as neither team has anything to play for. CLE should rest the top 22 starters.” Bengals 44, Browns 13

Jared Mueller: “Predicting how the Browns backups will do against Bengals players who have already booked their Cancun trips is difficult. Cleveland would love to end up with 12 wins and keep Cincinnati from winning a single game in the division. Also, do to roster limits and only 2 practice squad elevations allowed, its not like the Browns can run out a preseason game style roster anyway Sunday.” Browns 24, Bengals 21

Curtiss Brown: “I will probably not watch this game (I might but not extensively) because quite honestly this game is essentially a preseason game. Some starters will probably rest and younger players (whether it’s practice squad or rookies buried on the depth chart) will get a chance to shine. As far as the Cincinnati Bengals go, for a season that was filled with hopes and goals to becoming a dynasty that they were never going to be, it would be nice for them to finish winless in the division as a sort of a humbling considering all the hype that they got this season.

Game will be competitive but it’s hard for me to pick the Bengals to win when they let Mason Rudolph throw for near 300 yards.” Browns 23, Bengals 22

Ezweav: “It’s really hard for me to ever pick the Bengals to beat us, considering just how completely we own them. However Kev has made it clear that this is essentially a bye week now and if any lingering hope managed to survive which would give me a sense we could still pull it off was pretty much extinguished when Jeff Driskel was named the starter.

Now our roster is deep and the guys playing will go hard but if we’re throwing out the least of what we can than it stands to reason that we’re also probably not going to be running nothing offensively or defensively that any potential playoff opponents could pick up on. It will be as vanilla as it can possibly be.

Not a great combination, and even though Cincinnati is playing for nothing themselves and might be completely checked out, they’ll still probably be willing to take a few more risks. I’m sure Zack Taylor would love to improve his embarrassing record against us.

(Season long shouting out to NTN continuing)” Bengals 11, Browns 5

Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.