The second installment of the “Battle of Ohio” for 2017 is set to commence this Sunday, as the Cincinnati Bengals host the rival Cleveland Browns. Both teams have had their share of disappointments this season, as Cleveland is starving for their first win of the season, while Cincinnati is clinging on to postseason hopes by a thin thread.
Here are the aspects the Bengals need to achieve if they want to get to 5-6 after Week 11.
Give reasons for the home crowd to get behind the team:
Fans are still rightfully skeptical of the Bengals making the playoffs this year, but if they go on a run, who knows what can happen? This is a game, by almost every account, should be a runaway win for Cincinnati this week.
We know the DNA of many who comprise the Bengals fan base. They are rabid when the club wins, but get extremely restless when things get ugly in front of them at Paul Brown Stadium. Making big plays and gaining the confidence of both the team and the fans will be key for this week and the other five subsequent games.
Get an early lead:
This one is pretty simple. Getting up on a team who has yet to win a game this year will obviously get them in their familiar negative head space. This will especially be the case if the Bengals make explosive plays in the first half.
Corral DeShone Kizer’s running ability:
This is something that we talked about in the first matchup of the year and the Bengals did a good job of not letting the rookie break loose on the ground. He had five carries for just 10 yards and the Bengals will need to use his indecisiveness against him again this week.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been a trend that has consistently carried over in other games. Marcus Mariota had 51 rushing yards against Cincinnati, while even Blake Bortles had 20 yards on the ground in Week 9. Patience and discipline will be key this week in this aspect.
Exploit Spencer Drango by using Carl Lawson often:
Future Hall of Fame tackle Joe Thomas has finally had to miss some time with an injury for the first time in his career, so in comes Drango. The Bengals have had success getting after the quarterback this year, as evidenced by their tie for fourth-best in the league with 29 on the year.
Michael Johnson has found a nice niche inside on passing downs, while Lawson continues to impress in limited snaps. Using No. 58’s speed and explosion a little more frequently on Sunday should give Drango fits.
Carl Lawson shot out of a cannon on this QB hit.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) November 21, 2017
Pure speed rush. Dip and rip around the corner pic.twitter.com/s6uRoSVcdJ
Run the ball effectively—try it from the shotgun:
Yes, Jeremy Hill has come under scrutiny since his outstanding 2014 rookie campaign, but he seemed to almost always dominate the Browns—this year notwithstanding. He’s now on Injured Reserve, so it’s up to Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard to carry the load for Sunday and the rest of the year.
Obviously, getting the run game going against a team who is 0-10 is always something a club wants to achieve, and this might be the breakout game we’ve been looking for out of Mixon. But, it seems that Cincinnati’s lackluster offense runs the ball more effectively out of shotgun formations, so they should try that out to vary looks to the Browns defense.