You know something? The Browns didn’t play all that badly last Sunday in Baltimore. Other than Anquan Boldin’s angry-villagers-in-Frankenstein-style torching of Eric Wright, I thought the Browns defense held their own in some areas in which I was expecting them to get destroyed. Am I crazy for thinking that, with the way the Bengals’ offense has scuffled, this game is winnable for the Browns?
These two teams are not that far apart in terms of offensive stats: the Bengals are averaging 328.7 yards per game; the Browns are at 314.3. The Browns are outgaining the Bengals on the ground 116.7 to 100.3 yards per game. The flip side, however, is that the Bengals are much stingier on defense against the run than the Browns, and of course on paper the Bengals have many more offensive weapons. But as Kenny Mayne used to say, “Games aren’t played on paper, they’re played inside TV sets.” Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they keep Carson Palmer from killing them. The Bengals haven’t been able to get the passing game going yet this year, and the Browns don’t want to help them do it like they did for the Ravens a week ago. The Browns should be able to continue their rushing attack against a lackluster Bengals rushing defense. No matter who is playing QB for the Browns, that will have to be the way the Browns get their points. Browns better hope for a low scoring affair. And will the Browns’ special teams ever show up this season? Sure would be nice.
Scott: …they can play exactly how they did last week. No turnovers while methodically moving the ball down field little by little. We’re not going to be a big-play offense, but we can continue to just pound the ball and hope that Anquan Boldin doesn’t get traded to Cincinnati by Sunday afternoon. I know that some are concerned about Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but I think that the biggest weapon that may hurt the Browns is Cedric Benson. If the D-line and linebackers can provide pressure on Carson Palmer and plug the gaps in the run game, this could be the game where the Browns surprise. And then everyone can say, “See!? We should be undefeated right now! Fire Mangini!!!!”
DP: …they control the ball and the clock, and (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) don’t shoot themselves in the foot. The Matt Roth offsides penalty on the last meaningful offensive play of the game cemented the fact that this team still finds a way to do just enough to lose each week. Until they stop that, they’re not going beat *anyone*, let alone a decent Bengals team. If they can turn in another solid rushing day to control the clock and build a lead, and force a pedestrian-so-far Carson Palmer to beat them, I like their chances. But, they can’t have lapses like TJ Ward’s dropped pick-six, the Wallace/Hillis pitch-to-no-one at their own 10 yard line, or Roth’s offsides penalty to give the Ravens a first down and ice the game. They’re not good enough to overcome stuff like that; they simply can’t do it.
Rick: …they play the way they did in Baltimore, except without the defensive secondary lapses. I am just not sold on this Bengals team. I actually can see the Browns winning, so long as they take care of the ball and use the running game to set up the pass, and of course minimize penalties. The wildcat will work better against Cincy than the Ravens. I hope they use it. They played the Bengals tough last year, but came out on the short end. I will also be in Chicago this weekend, and may not get to see the game at all. That happened last season once. In Kansas City. We all know how that game turned out. Yep. I’m bitter. Still haven’t seen that record setting game.
Andrew: …they run the ball and don’t turn it over. Cliché, perhaps, but the Browns are capable of beating the Bengals at home as long as they don’t turn it over. The Bengals defense is particularly opportunistic and their offense feeds on it when the defense forces turnovers. It’s no surprise to see that in their 2 wins they have 2 sacks, 5 interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Meanwhile, in their opening week loss they had no sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles, and no fumble recoveries. The Bengals also showed some succeptibility to big special teams plays as they allowed the Patriots to rack up 184 yards in kick returns (46 yard average) including one return for a TD. This would be a prime game for Josh Cribbs to have his breakout game of the season in his return game.
The Bengals are a good team, no question about it. However, I’m not sure they’re a great team. If you look at their statistical rankings, they’re right around league average in rushing yards, passing yards, rushing defense, and passing defense. In other words, they’re not great at any one thing, but they’re also not really bad at any one thing. This means it will require a complete game from the Browns for them to win this game. Despite the big plays the Browns defense gave up last week and the numerous offensive weapons the Bengals have, I still think the Browns need to focus on stopping the Bengals running game and force Carson Palmer to throw as much as possible. Palmer is not having a great season so far with 3 TDs and 3 INTs through 3 games and the Browns pass defense has been better than their rush defense overall. It’s still an uphill battle for the Browns to actually win this game, but when you look at the upcoming schedule, it’s going to be a long, long time before they have a game as potentially winnable as this one.
What say, there, fuzzy britches?