Thursday, November 5, 2015

#Browns Preview 11.5.15: Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati #Bengals

By @mrgroce

Week 9 of the NFL starts this Thursday with an AFC North match-up between the last place Cleveland Browns, and the undefeated, first place Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals are coming off of a come from behind win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the Browns are still recovering from their loss against the Arizona Cardinals. When these teams face off, it will be almost one year (Nov. 6, 2014) since the Browns defeated the Bengals in Cincinnati 24-3 on national TV. Ever since that night, the Browns have only won three games total. 

It's only Thursday, but the Browns have already had a very long week. On Sunday, they forgot to continue playing after leaving the locker room after halftime, and then quarterback Josh McCown got hurt. Monday and Tuesday were filled with rumors of players getting traded before the NFL's trade deadline and of course, no one was dealt. On Tuesday, GM Ray Farmer tried to convince the fanbase that everything is ok, no need to panic, and we should allow the "movie to play out' before jumping to conclusions. Now, players who've had they're names mentioned in trade rumors need to go out and treat this game like any other. No dysfunction here.

The Bengals have had success making the playoffs for the past five seasons, but this year seems different. They'll still need to win a playoff game or two to convince the naysayers, but Andy Dalton seems to have taken his game up a notch. With a strong running game featuring Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and a receiving corps that features receivers AJ Green and Marvin Jones, and tight end Tyler Eifert, this offense will be very hard to stop for a Browns defense that's going to be without starting cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner. Both have been ruled out with concussions. The Browns defense has moved up two spots from 32nd to 30th in total defense, but are still dead last against the run. 

The Browns, who feature three running backs, are getting absolutely nothing out of any of them to help the running game. Last week against Arizona, they had a combined 20 carries for a paltry 39 yards. Running back Duke Johnson made a few good plays in the receiving game, but only touched the ball three times. Wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline have both been ruled out with concussions.

Sound familiar?

Oh yeah, and Josh McCown can barely breathe, so Johnny Manziel will get his second start of the season.

Call me crazy, but it looks like a major embarrassment is about to take place on national television for everyone to see. Best case scenario, Manziel lights it up, the Browns win and a small bit of hope peeks through. Thursday night might be the last chance for the Browns to show that they have some pride left and do whatever it takes to win this game. If not, with ten days before their next game someone or more than one person could lose their job. 

Here's a few keys to the game. 

1. The Browns must find a way to protect Manziel and give him a clean pocket.
2. Somehow, the Browns need to take pressure off Manziel and consistently be able to run the ball.
3. Manziel needs to find other receivers to throw to other than Travis Benjamin.
4. The Browns defense must put pressure on Andy Dalton. Haden has had his issues, but he's done a pretty good job of defending AJ Green. 
5. The Browns defense must get off the field after 3rd down. Arizona was 13-16 on 3rd downs last week.

My prediction: Bengals 31, Browns 13. 

What: Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals
When: Thursday 11/05 8:25 PM
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV/Radio: NFL Network,  WKNR 850 Cleveland, WKRK 92.3 The Fan, WNCX 98.5

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