The Cincinnati Bengals are set to travel to Cleveland Sunday to play the Browns for a game that could be more entertaining than anyone would have imagined a week ago.
The Bengals (2-1) are coming off one of their more memorable wins in recent memory, a wild 33-30 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns (1-2) defeated the Minnesota Vikings last week despite losing their starting quarterback to injury the week before as well as their best offensive weapon in a trade.
The Bengals jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Green Bay before turning the ball over four times and allowing the Packers back into the game. Cincinnati came roaring back, though, overcoming a 16-point deficit and winning on a fumble return for a touchdown after defensive end Michael Johnson stripped Green Bay running back Johnathan Franklin allowing cornerback Terence Newman to pick it up and score.
While the game left many questions regarding Cincinnati’s offensive efficiency, the young Bengals showed they can overcome adversity. Furthermore, the secondary, considered to be the weakness on an otherwise stout defense, frustrated Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and limited him to 244 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions. It was the first time Rodgers had thrown two interceptions in a game since 2010.
This week, the Bengals secondary may find even greater success as they will face a much less established quarterback in Cleveland. With starter Brandon Weeden nursing a thumb injury, last week the Browns turned to third stringer Brian Hoyer. Despite making his first NFL start, Hoyer threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns winning in Minnesota, 31-27. However, he did also throw three interceptions against Minnesota’s weak secondary. And while Cleveland’s offense did produce 103 yards on the ground, over half of that yardage came via two plays by defensive back Josh Aubrey and wide receiver Josh Gordon. After trading second-year running back Trent Richardson to the Colts, the Browns signed 31-year old running back Willis McGahee to take his place. But McGahee only gained nine yards on eight carries against Minnesota.
So while Cleveland got the victory, they do not seem to have found a new offensive identity just yet. But despite the uncertainty, the Browns will most likely not disappoint in the battle of Ohio. They tend to play as well against their interstate rivals as well as they do against anyone. Last year, the Browns got their first win of the season against the Bengals in week six. Expect Cleveland to play aggressively, as they did against the Vikings last week (scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal play), and as if they have nothing to lose. Cincinnati, meanwhile, will try to take better care of the ball and get their first win on the road of the year.