It’s finally here! The Browns are ready to kick off the regular season, and the Cincinnati Bengals come calling. Here we have Pat Shurmur’s first regular season game as a head coach; on the other side, it’s Andy Dalton’s first game as an NFL quarterback. Welcome to the league, Ginger!
On paper, the Bengals look to be in for a season of struggles, and given the fact that they’re starting a rookie at quarterback–on the road–this game seems like it’s there for the Browns’ taking. The Browns’ offense looked efficient at times during the pre-season, but struggled in Philly against a solid defense. Conversely, the Browns’ defense was a bit rough, though as the pre-season wore on guys like Phil Taylor became more noticeable. Call this a measuring stick for Cleveland: how “on the way up” are they? Beating the Bengals would help to define that a bit. Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
This year, we will be publishing select portions of our BWWI over at Cleveland.com. For Craig’s and Rick’s takes, please head over to Still WFNY. We have also invited Daniel Wolf from National Football Authority to contribute to our weekly post. If you haven’t already, check out his website and twitter for Browns news and info. Take it away, Daniel…
Daniel Wolf : … if the youth can mature at an accelerated rate now that they are receiving more reps and playing time than past regimes. It may sound a bit broad, but it is the first regular season game for this staff and roster and no one knows how this team will perform on the field yet. The one thing past regimes failed to accomplish was grooming young and talented players into guys who can produce on the field. Not only is Pat Shurmur’s approach with youth refreshing, but it is the best way to go about building a team that can win in the long term.
Scott: …they win the sometimes-cliché “turnover battle.” I suspect that Colt McCoy will be throwing the ball a lot more within a regular season NFL contest than any of us have ever witnessed. I suspect that Andy Dalton will be throwing the ball a lot more than he would hope to due to a combination of Dick Jauron planting TJ Ward in the box and the Bengals playing from behind. When the air assaults commence, the Browns defensive line needs to increase the quarterback hurries and the defensive backs need to be playing center field. Executed properly and the questionble defense is not on the field as often and the Browns’ scoring opportunities multiply. They may not cash in every time, but the more chances, obviously, the better. Force the mistakes, capitalize as often as possible, bring home the W. Profit.
DP: …they make Andy Dalton feel and play like a rookie. This is Dalton’s first career start. On the road. In Cleveland. On offense, Cleveland needs to control the ball with runs and precise passes. If they can wear down Cincy’s defense while also putting some points on the board, they will win. Dalton will most likely lean on his running game early and often, so if the Browns can get a lead that will force him to make plays. If the Browns can bring some of the pressure they did against Philly in the third pre-season game, can get Dalton rattled, and force him into some mistakes, I really like their chances.
Andrew …I suspect most of us are going to have some version of “shut down the Bengals’ running game”, and for good reason. The Browns are facing a rookie QB throwing to a 2nd year WR and a rookie WR. If the Browns are going to get beat by Andy Dalton, then nothing really matters because the Browns are going to be a horrible team. Assuming the Browns are at least a moderately decent team, than the only way the Bengals are going to beat them is if Cedric Benson carries the team. So that is what the Browns must take away from the Bengals. I feel like specific game-planning for a particular match-up is a strength of Dick Jauron’s (if his history is indication) and I suspect he will be keenly aware of this and have the defense ready to stop the run. But seriously, if the Browns lose this game, we better be prepared for another long season of anguish.
TD …first things first. The “will win if” stuff aside, the Browns MUST win this game for so many reasons. First and foremost, the Bengals are the opponent and have the look of a team that will be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. They are starting a rookie QB (Andy Dalton) on the road in a hostile environment. If the Browns want to take the next step forward in their climb towards relevancy again, they absolutely cannot afford a home loss to the Bengals. Almost as important as gaining confidence in the new system, is keeping the fans from the “here we go again” mentality that will 100% be here should they lose. Imagine what Monday morning will be like here in Cleveland next week. Unbearable to think about. I think the Browns win with ease if they are able to get in the face of Dalton and rattle him early. Put eight men in the box to stop Cedric Benson and force Dalton to beat you. I think its pretty simple. Offensively, I can’t wait to see Colt McCoy with a full arsenal of plays at his disposal. I expect to see a lot of Peyton Hillis as well.
Kirk …they are tired of opening the season 0-1. Simple as that. This is a game that the Browns should undeniably win. If they are efficient and accurate in the pass game and stout and athletic up front, they should be able to take care of business. We all know the Browns can and will run the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing just how much. No doubt the offense has changed for the better, but there are strides in the running game that could and should be carried over. Defensively, let’s hope the young D-line doesn’t get starry-eyed trying to bring down Benson. He’s a good back, but the Browns defense should not let him reach 100 yards. Knocking around Dalton early and often could be the biggest key of all.
Now, for the other side of the coin. We reached out to a couple of Cincy bloggers, and got some solid responses. Without further ado…
The Bengals Will Win If…
Jason Buck is a co-founder of Who Dey Revolution – a Bengals blog with a mission to bring to light the consistent failures of the Bengals front office since Mike Brown took control in 1991. Who Dey Revolution was founded in 2008 and made national headlines with “Project Mayhem”.
…the Browns make too many mistakes. The Bengals have rid themselves of sideshow characters like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but they are starting two wide receivers with minimal (Jerome Simspon) and zero (A.J. Green) NFL experience. Not to mention, an inexperienced offensive line due to the suspension of RG Bobbie Williams and a rookie quarterback. On defense, the Bengals lost CB Jonathan Joseph to free agency (Texans) and have Adam Jones on the PUP list. Defensive line is where the Bengals are likely deepest, however if they are on the field the entire game – taking beatings from Peyton Hillis – it’s foreseeable they could wear down in the second half.
To have any chance in this game, the Bengals need to pound Cedric Benson 25-30 times to protect Andy Dalton from throwing more than 20 times. They will also need to force turnovers and set up the offense in great field position to steal a touchdown or two. The Bengals don’t possess a comeback offense (especially not in week 1), so if the Bengals go down 14 points or more – game over.
All that being said – you never know with these two teams. I’ll never forget the Bengals home finale loss in 2003 – I think Lee Suggs (186 yards, 2 TD’s) is still running up and down the Paul Brown Stadium grass.
Jason Garrison is the editor of SB Nation’s Cincinnati Bengals website, CincyJungle.com, and is also a contributor for SB Nation’s NFL website. Jason hosts a weekly podcast called Real Football Talk with CincyJungle.com, and he graduated from University of Cincinnati with a journalism degree.
…they don’t turn over the ball and their defense can stop Peyton Hillis from running over them. I’m not expecting a high scoring game and Andy Dalton doesn’t need to throw five touchdown passes to get the Bengals off to a 1-0 start to the season. All he needs to do is manage the game and not turn the ball over. The movement of the offense will mostly depend on Cedric Benson and the running game and if the offense can score two touchdowns without turning the ball over, I think the Bengals can win.
Defensively, the Bengals will need to get back to where they were in 2009 — a top-five unit. Even though they lost Johnathan Joseph in free agency, stopping the Browns passing attack isn’t too much of a worry because I don’t think it’s the strength of their team. Sure Colt McCoy looked good during the preseason, but he doesn’t have an overabundance of talent at the receiver position and the Bengals have a fairly strong secondary. Peyton Hillis and the running game does scare me, though. The Bengals front-seven will need to be on top of their game to shut him down. If they can, and if the Bengals can just put a couple of scores on the board, I think the Bengals win the game.
If they can’t stop the run, it will be a different story.
DP is a native north-eastern Ohioan who has been living in Columbus since 1999. DP's main area of concentration here at WFNY is the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team, and you can catch his weekly 5-Hole columns each Tuesday. During the summers, you can also catch up on all the Columbus Clippers news that's fit to print in his Clip Show columns. In his spare time, he works in publishing, plays the drums, and wastes hundreds of dollars on Browns season tickets.