The interstate matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals pits two teams that I believe are going in two different directions despite the records and overall recent play. The Browns are coming off of a bye after their biggest win of the season over the Atlanta Falcons the week before. The Bengals are coming off of a 27-24 loss to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in his first career start.
Browns Getting Stronger Every Day
The Browns are probably in the best shape they have been in all season. The Browns have played WAY more snaps per game than any other team in the league, especially defensively. This wear and tear was really getting to them before this bye week. In the Chiefs game, there were Browns players going down left and right with injuries on the defensive end. Now, they are coming off of a nice win and a bye week to heal up and get fresh again. They also have had another week to design new plays with their new offensive coordinator and adjust to life with Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson as the main backfield presence. This is the biggest factor in the game to me, and I believe it is the reason the line has already moved 2 points since the open.
The Browns offense has looked much, much better under Freddie Kitchens. All year, we have wondered what in the world the Browns are doing with Duke Johnson. Kitchens has clearly been thinking the same thing as Duke has now scored 3 touchdowns in the 2 weeks with Kitchens at the helm. This coaching change was notably to make the offense better with Baker Mayfield at the helm. Hearing and seeing that a team is clearly willing to be dedicated to a players success is a really nice thing to hear and it’s clear that they really are changing their offense to help Mayfield become more successful. The other key on this side of the ball is the fact that the Bengals are on pace to allow the most yards EVER. This defense has not been good overall and they just seem to leak yards all over the field. With the bye week advantage, I expect the Browns to move the ball around well this week.
Bengals Struggling to Maintain Momentum
The Bengals’ offense is going to be a very interesting situation Sunday. At the beginning the week, it looked like A.J. Green was going to be able to play. Now, Green is out and that completely changes this offense. The Browns biggest weakness has been the secondary receivers. Denzel Ward has put up a DROY case at the CB1 spot on this Browns’ defense and the defensive line is a pretty solid unit overall. The slot and second corner in this Browns’ defense have been pretty bad and the success in the other facets of the defense has forced teams to really exploit those weaknesses.
Now, who do the Bengals have to expose these weaknesses? With Green in the lineups, one of him and Boyd have been really good at exploiting the mismatch, but I don’t think they can rely on Boyd to just do ALL the heavy lifting. Last week, Boyd had 11 targets but only 4 catches because the defense can simply key in on him. I believe that if the Bengals want to be successful on the offensive end here, they need to use Mixon and Uzomah more in the passing game and run Boyd in the slot basically the entire game hoping that Ward will not follow him into the slot on most plays. Since we saw this same situation last week, I am not really confident that this will happen.
Browns vs. Bengals Prediction
This is likely to be a good game, but at the end of the day, the Browns just have much better matchups. Give me the Browns and the +1.