Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Week Eleven Preview

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Updated: November 15, 2013

Fresh off their bye week following a win over the Ravens, the 4-5 Cleveland Browns travel south to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the 6-4 Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. For the Browns, this is a chance to sweep the season series against the first place Bengals and get back to .500, keeping themselves in the conversation for the playoffs. The Browns knocked off Cincinnati in week four of the NFL season, so here are the keys to the game for Cleveland if they plan on winning again.

Force Turnovers

Instead of relying on the pass rush this week, the Browns defense should instead key in on forcing the Bengals offense to turn the ball over. The Bengals offensive line is ranked 7th in the league in quarterback pressures allowed with only 99, including just nine sacks allowed (3rd). The Browns only managed 10 total QB pressures in their weak four meeting, so the defense will have to do it another way. Unfortunately for the Browns, one of the bigger knocks on their defense this season has been their lack of forcing turnovers. They are currently ranked 26th in takeaways this season with 11 (six interceptions, five fumble recoveries).

However, if the Browns can force turnovers they have a good chance of winning.

In their six wins this season, Andy Dalton has only thrown four interceptions against 14 touchdowns, including a five-touchdown performance against the New York Jets. When the Bengals lose, however, Dalton is much worse. In their four losses this season, Dalton has only thrown for four touchdowns against nine interceptions. The secondary will have to be opportunistic in this game.

In addition to their 13 interceptions, the Bengals have fumbled the ball seven times, losing four of them. Two of those fumbles lost have come from Dalton. The Bengals are 30th in the league in giveaways and the Browns defense must take advantage of this.

Stop Dalton/Green Connection

It’s no secret A.J. Green is Dalton’s favorite target. The problem for opposing defenses has been actually stopping him. Green has 65 receptions for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns. Those are fine numbers for a season. However, Green is entering week eleven so clearly stopping him isn’t an option; the Browns can contain him however.

That responsibility will once again fall on Joe Haden.

Dalton has a quarterback rating of 82.9 when targeting Green. He’s going to look his way often and he’s going to complete passes, there is no way around that. However, what Haden must do, and what he did in week four, was limit his yards after the catch and stop the big play.

In their last meeting, Haden held Green to five receptions for 41 yards, allowing him only six yards after the catch and a long reception of 16 yards. On the day, Green had seven receptions but only went for 51 yards and didn’t find the end zone. Stopping Dalton and Green from hooking up for a big play (or plays) greatly limits what the Bengals offense can do. It should be noted that six of Dalton’s 13 interceptions have come when targeting Green.

Find Jordan Cameron

The Bengals defense has had a great deal of success in stopping opposing tight ends, with one exception – Jordan Cameron. In the nine other games the Bengals have played this year, their defense has held opposing tight ends to an average of 3.2 receptions and 31.5 yards per game and only four total touchdowns. In the one game against the Browns, Cameron torched the Bengals for 11 receptions, 93 yards and a touchdown. An anomaly?  Perhaps, but Cameron’s success in the passing game has been a big asset to the Browns this season. The Bengals will undoubtedly try to take Cameron away from the Browns passing attack, which could then open things up for guys like Greg Little and Davone Bess to capitalize on short and intermediate routes.

In Conclusion

The last time Cleveland played Cincinnati their secondary was missing several starters. That unit is healthier this week, however the Bengals will be without Geno Atkins (IR torn ACL), Rey Maualuga (MCL sprain, concussion) and several others are questionable going into play on Sunday; including starting offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, one of the Bengals best run blockers on the line. The Browns can’t ignore speedy running back Giovanni Bernard either, as he can be a factor both rushing the ball and receiving out of the backfield, but the Browns defense has done extremely well in limiting opposing running backs.

Prediction

In a pretty evenly matched game, Cleveland beats the Bengals by a score of 24-20.

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