BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20: Jerome Simpson #89 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch against Brendon Ayanbadejo #51 of the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 31-24. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Good morning Bengals Nation. It's Saturday which means the work week is over and we can all get ready for football on Sunday. The Bengals are on a bit of a slide, but this week they will aim to redeem themselves against the Cleveland Browns in round two of the Battle of Ohio. Sunday also means a lot of beer, cheeseburgers, and football. Can't argue with that.
Tomorrow the Bengals will look to end their two-game losing streak. For the third week in a row the Bengals will be taking on an opponent from the AFC North. This time it's going to be Cleveland. The last time these two teams squared-off the Bengals made a dramatic comeback after Andy Dalton didn't return in the second half. Bruce Gradkowski helped guide Cincinnati to the win. He hit a wide open A.J. Green for the go-ahead score. And Cedric Benson capped-off the win with an insurance touchdown run.
The Bengals will be aiming to do the same thing this week against the Browns.
Here are the five keys for the Bengals on Sunday.
- Stay healthy. With Green being out the past game and a half we have realized how important he is to the offense. Sure Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell stepped up last week against the Baltimore Ravens, but if Green had started then the offense probably would have performed better. The outcome could have been different as well, but then again if the Jermaine Gresham "touchdown" would have stood then the game would have ended differently as well. Anyways, staying healthy is vital on a weekly basis. The last thing anyone wants is for a "key" player to succumb to some sort of injury. The Bengals have alright been bit enough by the injury bug as it is.
- The defense has to show up from the start. The Bengals cannot let the Browns score on consecutive drives. The Bengals defense has to show up right away and not wait until the second half. By then it could be too late, but I doubt that will be the case. Cleveland isn't the type of team to "run-away" with a game.
- Protect Dalton. Last week on the Bengals final drive the Ravens were sending three pass-rushers against the Bengals front line and sadly enough they were able to squeeze by Cincinnati's front line. That can't happen this week for obvious reasons. When Dalton has pressure put on him or is rushed then he doesn't make the greatest decisions. And that goes for any quarterback, unless you're Tony Romo who was extremely lucky on Thanksgiving against the Miami Dolphins. If Dalton has just enough time in the pocket he can create some magic with his arm, not because of his arm strength, but because of his decision-making and precision passing.
- Do something with the running game. Benson always seems to "breakout" against the Browns. And since that's who the Bengals play tomorrow, why not attack the Browns defense with Benson, Bernard Scott, and Brian Leonard? All three could do a lot of damage. A repeat performance from Benson would be nice as well, or at least something in the ballpark of his 121 yards on 25 carries from week one.
- Create turnovers don't commit them. Last week Dalton threw three interceptions while the Bengals were only able to pick Joe Flacco off once. Turnovers proved to be pivotal since the Ravens scored 14 points off two of the interceptions. If that didn't happen then the Bengals would have won the game. So plain and simple, don't turn the ball over, create turnovers instead.
- The Bengals are picked to defeat the Browns by several analysts.
- Bengals running back Cedric Benson seems to always have a breakout game against the Browns. And he needs to become a greater factor for the Bengals as they head down the final stretch and attempt to reach the playoffs.
- According to Marvin Lewis, tomorrow's game against Cleveland is a "huge game." Considering their playoff hopes hinge on this game, yes I would say it's a huge one.
- Here is the final injury and practice report for the Bengals and Browns. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap will not play on Sunday against Cleveland.
- Jerome Simpson has addressed things in his game that he needed to change. He has really stepped-up since A.J, Green went down with his hyper-extended knee. Now with Green back let's hope Simpson continues his recent performance.
- Last week on the final play there was confusion as to what the penalty should have been called for; intentional grounding or horse-caller tackle? Well Marvin Lewis blames the announcers for the rule confusion.