Some Cleveland Browns fans accused the team of tanking the season last week after the Trent Richardson trade. Don’t look now, but if the Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals this week, they could wind up in a tie for first place.
The Baltimore Ravens would have help the Browns by losing at Buffalo, but the point is that everything can change instantly in the NFL.
Cincinnati (2-1) could have the same record as the Browns if Terrance Newman hadn’t shocked the Green Bay Packers last week with a game-winning fumble return to give the Bengals a 34-30 win.
This week, Cleveland will have to deal with Andy Dalton and his arsenal of offensive weapons. Browns cornerback Joe Haden has been stellar at shutting down opposing receivers, and he will match up against A.J. Green this week.
Dalton will try to exploit the other Browns’ defenders by tossing the ball to wideouts Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, as well as the dangerous tight-end duo of Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert.
Dalton has only been sacked five times in three games, so the Browns will have to find a way to put pressure on him.
Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis carry the running load for the Bengals, and the Browns' run defense will try to continue its strong performance, giving up just 2.8 yards per carry.
The Browns must watch out for Dalton dumping the ball off to Bernard, because that’s how the Bengals scored the touchdown that beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2.
On offense, Brian Hoyer needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly like he did last week. Cincinnati has a strong front seven, including linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Margus Hunt.
In order to win, the Browns need to get something going in the running game. Willis McGahee only ran for nine yards after joining the Browns in the middle of the week. He has to keep the Bengals from rushing the house against Hoyer in the second half.
The Bengals’ secondary has been hampered by injuries, so if Hoyer can get some time to throw, he could exploit mismatches with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Davone Bess also must catch third-down passes and move the sticks.
The AFC North Division is wide open right now, and Cleveland needs to play a smart, error-free game. It will be a lot tougher to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, so Cleveland needs to get the job dome at FirstEnergy Stadium.
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