The Battle of Ohio resumes as the Bengals travel to Cleveland to open the season against the Browns. The Bengals are most people’s preseason prediction to win the AFC North this season. The Browns could be a surprise team this season as they are solid in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
As they prepare to face off against the Bengals in their season opener, the Browns face a few injuries of their own to consider – their injury report just slightly longer than that of Cincinnati’s. Their offensive line remains healthy while the defensive side could be thin in this matchup; two cornerbacks have already been ruled out while Juan Thornhill (calf) and Denzel Ward (concussion) remain questionable for Saturday’s contest.
The offense must be far more efficient in both aspects than last season, when they relied heavily on running game efficiency. Deshaun Watson should fare better now without all of the distractions surrounding him from last season; however, wide receiver room remains lacking. Nick Chubb, who amassed 1,500 yards rushing last season should see plenty of the ball yet again and should continue churning out first downs for important first downs; though without Kareem Hunt to provide relief at times it remains to be seen how effective he will be at this task.
There are major concerns surrounding the secondary. They’ve lost four players there while facing one of the league’s premier passing attacks is sure to prove challenging. Myles Garrett (16 sacks) does return and should help alleviate some pressure off of them – but keep an eye out for Grant Delpit (105 tackles and 4 interceptions), who hopes to make his presence felt against Higgins and Chase.
Deshaun Watson struggled last season, and if that continues, the Browns are doomed. But if he can return to form, the Browns have enough talent to be a serious contender.
On Thursday night, the Bengals created an uproar by unveiling a record-setting contract for their quarterback, setting the stage for continued strong play over recent seasons. They bring back plenty of talent that was probably the NFL’s best second half season until their playoff loss to Chiefs. Two years removed from a Super Bowl loss, this team can be dominant on either side of the ball; an opening win against Cleveland will set their season off right!
Cincinnati faces several key injuries as kickoff approaches, most notably Joe Burrow (calf). After going down in training camp, he remains probable as is Tyler Boyd (toe). On defense, all eyes remain focused on Joseph Ossai (ankle), whose presence could make a big difference on the line in this matchup.
As long as Burrow is given time, the offense should run smoothly on the road. Burrow threw for over 4,400 yards last season with Jamaar Chase and Tee Higgins as two outstanding wide receivers; this duos should prove an asset against Cleveland. With Joe Mixon as an authoritative running back, this team also has enough balance to take control of both time and game itself.
Defensively, the Bengals boast plenty of talent. Logan Wilson (123 tackles) has been one of the premier linebackers in recent seasons, the Bengals are strong on the defensive line with DJ Reader, Trey Hendrickson, and Sam Hubbard!
This is a dangerous game for the Bengals, but with the secondary issues for the Browns, Joe Burrow should have a big day. Bengals win 34-27.
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