What a game against the Packers last Sunday, right? If you have an office job like myself and most everyone else here at Cincy Jungle, the 34-30 roller coaster of a victory was water cooler fodder for the past two-plus days. But, as practices really ramp back up on Wednesdays, it's officially time to move on and look to the next game on the schedule.
When one looked at the Bengals' first stretch of the schedule, the lone "breather" within the first five games appeared to be a road battle against the Cleveland Browns. Through the first two weeks of 2013, the game looked even more promising in the Bengals' favor because of an 0-2 start by the Browns and their seemingly-odd trade of franchise running back, Trent Richardson to the Colts.
However, there is more than meets the eye with this Cleveland team. After the Richardson deal and a quarterback change, the Browns had an impressive comeback win on the road against the Vikings. This victory came one week after going toe-to-toe on the road with the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in a slobberknocker.
It's not entirely clear whether Brian Hoyer or Brandon Weeden will play this week at quarterback for Cleveland, but what is clear that this Browns team hasn't packed it in with the results of last week. Couple that with the Browns hosting the game and their usual feistiness against the Bengals in "The Battle of Ohio" and this is a tougher game than initially thought.
Somehow, some way, the Bengals have managed to largely overcome multiple, self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the foot. Three turnovers in the opener against Chicago, nine penalties on Monday night against the Steelers, and four more turnovers against the Packers--yet the Bengals stand at 2-1 with their only loss by three points on the road. Not many teams can say that in NFL history, I'm sure. Still, it took two turnovers by Pittsburgh and a matching four by Green Bay to get the Bengals those two wins.
However, at some point, as it it did in Chicago, these mistakes will come back to haunt the Bengals. This game has the potential to be a close nail-biter, but if the Bengals want to make sure they rope in this important game, they will need to clean up the mistakes. Cincinnati simply cannot rely on a huge amount of turnovers by Cleveland, even though they have committed eight in three games.
Sniffing double-digit penalties and multiple turnovers on the road isn't a recipe for success in a bruising AFC North game. The last thing the the Bengals need after having one of their biggest wins in the Marvin Lewis era is to take a step back by losing a game that most figure that they should win. They can't revel in their crazy win from last Sunday and will need to get to business this week, if they want to continue to make headway in the conference and the division.