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The Battle of Ohio: 5 Keys to a Bengals Victory Against the Browns
The Cincinnati Bengals provided what may have been the game of the week last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, narrowly winning 34-30. The Bengals scored the first 14 points only to give up 30 in a row before making a valiant comeback. At 2-1, Cincinnati sits in first place as they travel to Cleveland for 2014’s first “Battle of Ohio”. Cleveland had an impressive victory over Minnesota last week, merely days after trading former franchise running back Trent Richardson. Cincinnati and Cleveland have always played each other tough, no matter what the records of the two teams. Call it Ohio pride, call it whatever you want, it usually ends up in a fantastic game to watch. The Bengals since 2003 have won 14 of 20 meetings against the Browns. Here are five things the Bengals need to do to secure a victory and stay in first place in the AFC North:
Limit Jordan Cameron
Cleveland’s young tight end Jordan Cameron is simply dominating the league this year, and through three weeks, has been one of the lone bright spots on offense for the Browns. With 20 receptions, 269 yards and four TDs, he is a threat no matter where the ball is. A certain red zone threat, it will be contingent on the LBs and nickel DBs who will likely be outmatched to cover Cameron. If the Bengals can limit Cameron, it will put much more pressure on wide-out Josh Gordon.
Pressure Brian Hoyer
In a somewhat surprising move to the outside world, the Browns skipped backup Jason Campbell in favor of third-string Brian Hoyer last week against the Vikings. Hoyer only responded by throwing for three TDs and leading the Browns to victory. It will be important for the Bengals D-line to get pressure on Hoyer, and attempt to rattle a QB who has seen extremely limited playing time. Many times a new QB will look to check to his safety valve, which is typically a TE or slot receiver.
Get Bernard on the field more
Giovani Bernard has been a spark for the Bengals this year. He is a playmaker who is capable of breaking a big play given blocking and some space. He has provided a great compliment to the more up the middle BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but its time for him to see more touches. His time on the field has slightly increased each week, and it needs to continue that trend this week against Cleveland. Having a player with his skillset will give opposing defenses headaches at times, always having to keep tabs on the smaller back.
Find the Balance with AJ Green
The Bengals have had some issues recently in their play calling with wide-out A.J. Green. They have been attempting to find a balance between getting him touches, and forcing it to him. Given he is their best playmaker, there is an obvious benefit for calling his number. But QB Andy Dalton at times has tried to force the ball to Green, and has resulted in INTs and incomplete passes. Dalton needs to pick his spots with Green; looking for any rare times the WR gets man coverage with no help. Browns DB Joe Haden is no pushover, and it should be a great battle to watch throughout the game.
Force Cleveland to Run the Ball
This may seem obvious given that the Browns traded away Trent Richardson, but the Bengals run defense has been pretty good. Last week they allowed Packer RB Jonathan Franklin, who has a skill set similar to Bernard, to eclipse 100 yards. Prior to that the Bengals held both the Bears and Steelers lead backs to less than a 100 yards. The Browns brought in wily veteran Willis McGahee to split time with Bobby Rainey. Cleveland is only averaging 71 yds per game this year.
On paper, the Bengals mismatch the Browns in nearly every category. However, as mentioned earlier, these two teams seem to always play each other very close no matter what the matchup on paper looks like. That said, the Bengals seem to be improving every week, and that doesn’t bode well for the Browns. I predict the Bengals to take this game, 34-17.
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