Maybe we're not expecting Rey Maualuga vs. Trent Richardson to become the major key of the week but there's interest here. Yet as we think about it, what's Cleveland's best chance to beat a team like the Cincinnati Bengals? Ride the arm of Brandon Weeden, who posted four interceptions against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 5.1 passer rating? If we read the comments right, the more overreactionary section of the Browns fanbase is already thinking Colt McCoy -- and they're probably the same people that wanted anyone during the NFL draft, just to replace Colt McCoy.
We could say that Cleveland puts their eggs in their defensive basket. But Andy Dalton won't throw four interceptions and it's more likely that Cincinnati pounds the football after last week's performance which enhances the prospects of the rushing offense -- at least compared to the dismal efforts of 2011 and 2010. Plus the Browns gave up 150 yards on the ground last week, so their defense is questionable at best.
Maybe a bell cow running back like Trent Richardson. Good young running backs are always safe gameplans when a team is rebuilding with the hidden impression that they'll remain competitive. At least try to. Yet as we pointed out earlier, Rey Maualuga doesn't really see anything special in Trent Richardson. Perhaps the two create a little spark in the Battle of Ohio. Perhaps not. But the Cincinnati Bengals must do a better job against Cleveland's rushing offense than the 5.3 yard/rush average they allowed to the Baltimore Ravens.
And despite the friendly banter between Maualuga and Richardson, it's likely that two will feature somewhat prominently with their team's respective gameplans when facing each other this Sunday. The Browns will want to control the pace of the game. Cincinnati's defense wants short drives to enjoy good conversation on the sidelines, allowing the Bengals offense to shift towards their own rushing offense to... control the pace of the game.
Yet if you want a good indicator that often dictates Cincinnati's chances for wins and loss, look no further than the rushing defense.
Dating back to 2011, including the playoff game and this year's regular season opener, the Bengals have won nine and lost nine. Of the nine games they've won, the defense allowed 100 yards rushing or more once (the Cleveland Browns). Of the nine games they've lost dating back to 2011, the opposing rushing offense generated over 100 yards or more in all but one. Further breakdown.
Though football today is different than the eras that preceded, stopping the opposing rushing offense has always withstood time.