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5 key Bengals to watch against the Browns in Week 14

In the second leg of The Battle of Ohio, these are the players you can expect big things from on the Bengals’ side of the field.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2016 Cleveland Browns are not exactly the Bill Goldberg of the NFL. For the Brownies, it isn’t a question of “Who’s Next?” but instead “Who’s First?” At 0-12, the team is entering 2008 Detroit Lions territory in terms of futility, but make no mistake, the Lions’ 0-16 season was not the same as what the Browns are facing. That old Lions team was just bad, with no hope for the future. These Browns are in a complete overhaul, having gone through a large talent fire sale in the off season, leaving Hue Jackson without much to work with, in addition to a depleted quarterback room. That said, Jackson is going to continue to give the team everything he’s got and if a 4-7-1 team could ever be in a “trap game” this would be it. For the Bengals to avoid losing, these five players will likely need to have big days.

1) Jeremy Hill

Don’t let Jeremy Hill’s stat line fool you. While it may seem nice that he has a fairly respectable 4.0 yards per carry on the ground this season, those numbers are inflated. In fact, he’s posted under 2.0 yards per carry the last two weeks and has only reached 4.0 yards per carry twice this year. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry in a loss to Denver and an astounding 18.7 yards per carry in the first meeting of the season with Cleveland. While I’m not usually a huge Jeremy Hill fan, I know he has Cleveland’s number. 20 percent of his career rushing yardage and more than 15 percent of his touchdowns have come against the Browns, so he knows how to feast on weak competition. I expect Hill to have another big day. Maybe not quite the 192 total yard performance from the last meeting, but I would be shocked if Hill didn’t cross the century mark in this one.

2) Carlos Dunlap

Carlos Dunlap is a force on the edge of the Bengals defense and we know quite well what he’s capable of doing to Robert Griffin III, having a memorable game against the former Redskins rookie in 2012. In a year the then healthy quarterback took the league by storm, Dunlap proved to be an uncommon kryptonite, hitting Griffin all day and shutting down Washington’s option attack. Since then, Dunlap has only gotten better and he should be harassing Griffin once again thanks to a lackluster Browns offensive line that leads the league in quarterback hits allowed (99) and sack percentage (6.6% of all drop backs).

3) Vontaze Burfict

Burfict is playing at perhaps the highest level of his career and I expect him to have a field day against Cleveland. He’s posted 50 solo tackles in the last 5 games and 62 total tackles. The Browns will likely try to attack the Bengals porous run defense like they did in the last meeting and Burfict, along with Rey Maualuga, will be paramount in putting up any kind of a fight against it. That said, in the last showdown, the leading rusher was a quarterback, and it was largely due to the defensive ends crashing too hard. Regardless of who lines up under center for the Browns, expect Burfict to give them a rough day at the office. 55 is playing lights out football for Cincinnati.

4) Tyler Eifert

Some of the best NFL defenses have a hard time containing Tyler Eifert. The Cleveland defense is not a good NFL defense, let alone the best, so they will need to commit a lot of attention to Eifert if they plan to slow him down. Even then, his ability to high point the football and find space in the seam make him too good to count out regardless of how much attention he receives. While he’s currently the team’s top offensive threat with A.J. Green still recovering from his hamstring injury, I expect to see him with a productive day. I’ll say two touchdowns for the Notre Dame product, if we’re making predictions.

5) Tyler Boyd

Lost in the shuffle of the A.J. Green situation has been just how impressive Tyler Boyd has been in Green’s absence. While it’s hard to ignore Green when he’s on the field, the injury has forced Andy Dalton to rely more on his rookie and I think their chemistry has seen a huge improvement as a result. Boyd is on pace to only be the third Bengals rookie receiver since 2000 to have 500+ yards receiving, and he should get there this week. More importantly than that, Boyd has begun to show he’s not just a tool for the slot, as he’s more than capable of playing outside and has the route running ability to throw off corners. He may not have insane athletic skills compared to other NFL receivers, but he’s as polished of a technical receiver as a rookie could probably be. That bodes well for him having a long career in the NFL.