For the 88th time, the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will matchup in the “Battle of Ohio” on Sunday.
The Bengals lead the rivalry 48-39 since the teams first met in 1970 and lead the series 24-12 since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999.
This edition will be very interesting as both teams sit at 0-3 for the season heading into the game.
The Cleveland Browns have the youngest roster in the NFL and while they’ve lost those games by an average of 5.3 points per game, they still seem far away from being a competitive winning team.
The Bengals are in a make or break year. Marvin Lewis is in his fourteenth season as head coach of Cincinnati and quarterback Andy Dalton is in his seventh season as the team’s starting quarterback. Barring a quick turnaround, this could be the final season for both of them in the Queen City.
It’s a must win for both franchises and I would expect this to be a knock down fight between the teams of the Buckeye State.
Team Stats (League Rank)
Passing: CLE-236 YPG (13th), CIN-182.7 YPG (28th)
Rushing: CLE-87 YPG (24th), CIN-89.7 YPG (21st)
Scoring: CLE-18 PPG (T-18th), CIN-11 PPG (32nd)
Passing: CLE-233 YPG (20th), CIN-163 YPG (4th)
Rushing: CLE-87.7 YPG (14th), CIN-129.7 YPG (25th)
Scoring: CLE-25.3 PPG (T-26th), CIN-20 PPG (T-9th)
Out: LB Jamie Collins (concussion)
Questionable: WR Sammie Coates (hamstring), TE Randall Telfer (knee), DE Myles Garrett (ankle), DT Danny Shelton (calf)
Out: WR John Ross (knee), TE Tyler Eifert (back), LB Jordan Evans (hamstring)
Doubtful: S Derron Smith (ankle)
Questionable: OL Trey Hopkins (knee)
Matchup to Watch
Cleveland Defensive Line vs Cincinnati Offensive Line
The Bengals lost two key pieces to their offensive line when Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler left in free agency for Los Angeles and Cleveland respectively.
Their presence has been missed and it shows early as the Bengals have given up 11 sacks, tied for fourth most in the league this season.
The Browns only have 6 sacks as a team through three games and that’s without their top draft choice Myles Garrett.
The team has blitzed on 47% of the Defensive snaps but only creates pressure 25% of the time which is not a great number if you’re defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah need to find a way to create pressure and disrupt Andy Dalton’s time in the pocket. Nate Orchard
When Baltimore disrupted Dalton in Week 1, it led to him getting sacked five times and throwing four interceptions in the Bengals 20-0 loss.
Although it looks like he won’t be playing, if Garrett can play against Cincinnati even in a limited role, it would be an added bonus to a pass rush Cleveland needs to win this game.
As I mentioned above, this is a must win for both teams.
If Cincinnati doesn’t win this game, it would all but seal Marvin Lewis’ fate and it could force the Bengals to potentially go to A.J. McCarron at the quarterback position especially if Dalton struggles.
Cleveland has lost 13 straight division games going back to their overtime victory against Baltimore in 2015.
Hue Jackson knows what it takes to win in this division from his days as Bengals offensive coordinator and he needs a win badly to cool down his seat that seems the media is creating the heat on despite Jackson’s 1-18 start as head coach.
I think this game comes down to which team’s running game out duels the other. This would mean Cleveland needs to run the ball plenty especially against the Bengals run defense which is giving up 130 yards a game this season.
The Browns run defense has been pretty good early on but it needs to stop the three headed monster that is Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon.
Don’t forget about A.J. Green which has been a thorn in the Browns side since Cincinnati drafted him 4th overall in 2011.
In the end, I think Cincinnati pulls it out late and takes the Battle of Ohio for the 25th time since 1999.
Bengals 23 Browns 17