Overview: I thought maybe we would do something different this week now that the Browns are down to playing divisional opponents for the second time. We already have had one “Pre-Game Intel” article for the Bengals. A lot of time has passed since then. The Bengals were 2-1 coming into the first game with the Browns. They had lost their first game to New England before beating Baltimore 15-10 and beating Carolina 20-7. Then, the Bengals faced mighty Seneca Wallace and the Browns. That was the first of ten straight losses for the Bengals. Their eleventh game of the season will be their opportunity to break the streak against the team that started it so so many weeks ago. I will use the same picture that I used the first time just in case that was the reason the Browns won the game, though. As I say so frequently, I don’t believe in superstition except when I do.
As the Bengals now sit 2-11, what were we saying back in October when the Browns were set to face these Bengals the first time?
Airing it Out: Last time we did this, we were talking about how Carson Palmer was being considered unfit to be considered elite in this league anymore.
“After posting a 92.5 QB rating in week 1 versus the Pats, Palmer has declined in the last two weeks. He had no TDs or INTs against Baltimore while completing under 50% of his passes. Against Carolina, Palmer threw 2 INTs vs. 1 TD while completing just over 50% of his passes.”
Palmer hasn’t had an exceptional season, but since that game against the Browns he has 18 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions. On the season, Palmer has completed just over 60% of his passes. In the end though, it isn’t translating into a good season for Palmer or for his Bengals. Palmer is currently ranked 24th in the league amongst qualifying quarterbacks.
We thought Terrell Owens was going to clear the field for Chad Ochocinco to have a big season. I thought so in particular as I took Ocho in my fantasy league. Shows what I know. Ochocinco has a decent number of receptions, but the yardage and average per catch are down to 795 and 12.2 respectively. His touchdown numbers are down too as he has only four to date. Compare that with Terrell Owens who is 17 yards shy of 1000 for the year. Owens has nine touchdowns. He didn’t practice Friday with some knee soreness, but he has played well all season.
Running it Down: The last time the Browns played the Bengals, Cedric Benson was already off to a rough start with a heavy workload.
“Cedric Benson is the main runner for the Bengals. At 27 years of age, he has a fair amount of mileage on him. He has never played a full 16 game season in his career. Last season Benson averaged 4.2 yards per carry for a career high. So far this season Benson is averaging 3.1 yards per carry with 202 yards on the season.”
That first game against the Browns, Benson carried it 15 times for 60 yards. He has had huge games against Tampa and Buffalo where he went over 100 yards and at least five yards per carry. In every other game his yards per carry was four or less. In the last three games against the Jets, Saints and Steelers Benson has averaged 2.3, 2.6, and 2.4 yards per carry while not rushing for even 50 yards in any of the contests.
In the Trenches: Last time, we were talking about the Browns needing to get pressure on Carson Palmer a week after Joe Flacco camped out all game long. This time, the mission is similar for the Browns. Now that we have talked about the failures of the Bengals passing game and the running game, maybe it is time to give the Bengals offensive line some of the blame for the struggles this season.
The Bengals defense is still considered to be a decent unit. The linebackers and defensive line can do some damage. Peyton Hillis versus the Bengals linebackers could be an interesting matchup. Also keep an eye out for Carlos Dunlap who has had sacks or partial sacks in each of the last three weeks and four out of the last five. In a year where Joe Thomas has looked less than his old Pro Bowl self, this isn’t something we can just take for granted anymore. There have been far too many quarterback high ankle sprains.
Special Teams: At what point do we stop considering Browns return teams good? Josh Cribbs has been banged up all year and teams have worked hard to keep Browns return teams from killing them. The Browns currently rank dead last in the league with 17.6 return yards per kickoff. Sure, you tip your hat to opposing teams for making it a priority, but those results mean the Browns don’t get to chalk it up as an advantage coming into the game.
Cincy is ranked 22nd the league in kickoff returns. They have a 21.7 yard average and no returns for touchdown.
Prediction: I am now 6-7 picking the Browns games after being wrong in predicting a Browns win against the Bills. I said the Browns would win 23-9, and they lost an ugly one 13-6. That was (hopefully) the last game ever that we will see of Jake Delhomme. It also could be the first of Brian Daboll’s four game swan song. Regardless of how much blame Daboll deserves for the horrible offense, I just don’t think he can survive the lack of output, regardless of Eric Mangini’s fate.
Anyway this week is the return of Colt McCoy behind center. I think we are going to see an energized Browns club come out this week with the young gun under center. Colt McCoy’s stats and abilities aren’t really worth talking about yet because he is a rookie learning the game. Still, there is no denying the way this team seems to respond when he is playing. He plays with a confidence and creativity that is beyond his youth. I think there could be some rough, rusty patches in the first half, but I think the Browns start to finish strong. McCoy will make plays for the Browns and they will win today.
So how will it play out? Here comes the overly detailed silly prediction. The Browns will lose the first half 17-7. Colt McCoy is going to have a rough start. The Browns will respond in the second half. They will trade touchdowns with the Bengals before scoring two unanswered touchdowns to finish the game. The Browns will win 28-24.