It is the Battle of Ohio take two. This time, the Bengals head to Cleveland to face a Cleveland Browns team in total disarray. Last week the Browns lost a football game where they were attempting to win with a makeable field goal on the last play of the game. The kick was blocked, and with no time on the clock, the Ravens ran the blocked kick back for a touchdown. It was pretty much the worst case scenario for the Browns. it was a very Cleveland thing to happen.
The Bengals should roll in this game, but, we have seen this story before. Not always does the big favorite come away with a win in this matchup. So what do the Bengals need to do to improve to 10-2 on the season? Here are our 5 keys to a Bengals victory.
A.J. Green demands respect
All signs point to Tyler Eifert being out of the game for the Bengals. This means there will be a significant hole in the Cincinnati offense. The Browns' secondary is talented and Cleveland will want to make the Bengals one dimensional. If the Bengals All Pro wideout can demand double coverage, the door will be open to any of a number of Cincinnati's receiving options. With Joe Haden still missing from the Browns' secondary, this could be one of the biggest keys to this game.
Cover Gary Barnidge
Barnidge enjoyed around 100 yards receiving last week in the Browns' loss to the Ravens. The current story in the NFL is that athletic tight ends can dominate in a game. They are just too hard to cover for linebackers. So if the Bengals want to keep the Browns' offense stagnant, they will need to stop one of their biggest weapons on offense.
Don't let Duke go
Duke Johnson was a very hyped rookie when drafted by Cleveland. I'm not sure if it is the talent surrounding him or if he is under-performing, but I don't want this weekend to be the coming out party for the young running back. In past lives, the Bengals were known for being the springboard to stardom for running backs and back up quarterbacks. One thing that the Browns could hang their hats on is if Johnson finds success against Cincinnati. This would keep the Bengals' offense off the field and allow the Cleveland faithful (man, that is a lot of faith) to make some noise in the stadium.
The Bengals need to shut down all phases of the Browns' offense. The Browns' running game should struggle and the pressure should fall on a quarterback making his first NFL start.
Keep some distance
When the Bengals have the chance to score, they need to. The last thing anything wants is a close game that could be decided by a fluke play at the end. The Browns are almost always at the bad end of a play like that so you would hate for the pendulum to swing in their favor and the Bengals to end up with a loss in extraordinary fashion. If the Bengals make the most of their scoring opportunities, they should have enough cushion to not allow the Browns to have a shot at all. Basically, they should strive to see a similar margin of victory as they did last week in their 31-7 win over the Rams.
Pressure Austin Davis
How can you rattle a new quarterback? Hit him often. The Bengals boast a pretty incredible pass rush and should make life uncomfortable for Davis in his first NFL start. The more pressure, the more mistakes, the more the Bengals can cruise to a victory.
So what are your keys to a victory? Let us know in the comments and we will revisit next week when we celebrate the Bengals' win over the Browns.