Above the 500 mark for the first time this season is where the (4-3) Cincinnati Bengals find themselves heading into week eight. Blowing out the Atlanta Falcons, the Bengals put together a complete game in all three phases. The offense, defense, and special teams unit played exceptional football, giving them some momentum going into this week. Now, they’re heading to Cleveland for a Monday night prime-time game to try and build on their wins as they get closer to the bye week. Check out the best football odds.
On the other hand, the (2-5) Cleveland Browns have not entirely found their mojo for winning games. They had the opportunity to pull off a divisional win last week against the Ravens, but some huge penalties late in the game helped the Ravens win 23-20. The Browns are trying to avoid their fifth loss in a row; thus, they will play with a lot of emotion. The Bengals have yet to win a divisional game, so they must be focused as they head into this critical matchup.
All stats courtesy of ESPN
The Bengals have finally found an identity with their shotgun offense. Quarterback Joe Burrow had one of his best games last week, throwing for 481 yards, including passes of 60, 32, and 41 yards. Burrow has never beaten the Browns since becoming a Bengal, so he will be extra motivated to check this one off his list. He has proven to teams that he likes to attack every part of the field, so I see no reason why he would not do it again with a Browns team whose back is against the ropes.
Burrow will be coming into this game without his main target in receiver Ja’Marr Chase after hearing early in the week that he may be out 4-6 weeks with a hip injury. What does this mean for the Bengal’s offense? It means that Brown’s top corners, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome, will likely cover Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd receivers. Ward has been in concussion protocol and has missed a few games. He may or may not play. Higgins and Boyd had big games last week and have the talent and ability to step up in the absences of Chase.
Getting off to another fast start will be critical in this game. If the Bengals can go up one or two scores, it should force the Browns to give up their game plan of running the ball and force their hand at throwing to win the game. With Chase out, everyone else will need to step up. Tight end Hayden Hurst has proven he can run routes and has the hands to impact this game. Look for Hurst to have more receptions in this game than in previous games.
Burrow will have some options in this competition. Veteran receiver Mike Thomas has made some solid catches in the past and should be the first receiver off the bench. Practice squad players Kwamie Lassiter and Trenton Irwin could also see reps. If the Bengals want to be creative, they could use backup running back Chris Evans out of the backfield. Evans has excellent field vision and can elude tacklers, giving Burrow and his offense one more weapon.
There is always the option to move Boyd outside and have Trent Taylor play the slot. Boyd can play anywhere, and Taylor has the skills to make plays and move the ball.
The offensive line of the Bengals has been playing much better in the last few weeks. Left tackle Jonah Williams had one of his best games against the Falcons and looked to recover from his knee injury. Indeed, he will be tested this week with defensive end Myles Garrett, considered one of the best in the league. Playing against Garrett in the past gives Williams the experience to know what to expect in this matchup.
Both tackles will be tested in this contest as the Browns will send all-pro defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to faceoff against right tackle La’el Collins. However, Clowney was coming off an injury and was limited to only 23 snaps last week. If Clowney struggles early, they will likely use rookies to rotate into the game. The bottom line will be for Collins and Williams to ensure Garrett & Clowney do not wreck the game.
The secondary of the Browns is much better than what they faced the last two weeks, so establishing a running game could be in the cards. Joe Mixon has been improving weekly, averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt to roughly 4.9 yards. Could this be the game where we have a solid run game to match the passing attack?
The Brown’s inside tackles have not been getting it done lately. Now consider how poorly linebackers Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Deion Jones have been playing; it could spell out a massive game for Mixon. With Garrett and Clowney’s pressuring from the outside, Mixon could have solid runs up the middle or be used to catch passes out of the backfield for some explosive yardage.
It is no secret that Brown’s primary game plan is to run Nick Chubb. Why not? After all, he has gained 740 yards and eight touchdowns so far this year. Some fans have even been yelling for him to get even more carries. Then there is Kareem Hunt helping to share the carry duties. Together they are a dual threat and make up one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Cleveland has a backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, filling in as the starter until Deshaun Watson returns from an 11-game suspension. The Browns will try to keep the ball out of Brissett’s hands as much as possible unless Burrow and company get off to a fast start and he needs to throw. Stopping the run will be priority number one.
Bengal’s defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will have to devise creative ways to contain this formidable Browns ground attack. When all-pro DJ Reader and Josh Tupou went out with injuries, it was time for players to step up. Claimed off waivers at the beginning of the season, defensive tackle Jay Tufele has played lights out. Then add converted college defensive end turn defensive tackle Zack Carter, and Brown’s run game does not look as bad. Together they are making the most of their opportunities and should play their part in stopping the run.
Linebackers Germain Pratt, Marcus Bailey, and Akeem Davis-Gaither will have their work cut out for them as they attempt to contain this running attack. Check out the top football betting sites.
Unlike the Falcons, Brissett will throw the ball if the Browns trail. His two main targets are receivers Donovan People Jones and his main target, the very talented Amari Cooper. He should rely on them more since one of his favorite targets, tight end David Njoku is out with an injury. I feel comfortable that Bengal’s top corner Chidobe Awuzie will keep Cooper’s catches to a minimum.
Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard’s decisive pass rush must apply the pressure on Brissett.
The other good news is Joesph Ossai has finally found his rhythm and recorded his first sack last week. Together with Cam Sample and BJ Hill could force Brissett to throw the ball before he is ready to. Anarumo may even blitz slot corner Mike Hilton and rookie Dax Hill to bring added pressure. This defense has not allowed a second-half touchdown yet, so look for them to make the adjustments to win the game.
This game, without a doubt, will be played in a challenging environment, with the dog pound going crazy. The Bengals must get out to a fast start as they stop Cleveland’s run game. Doing this, along with winning the turnover battle and limiting penalties, should have the Bengals leaving Cleveland with a 5-3 record.
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