“The Battle of Ohio” isn’t always pretty, but the old rivalry does seem to fuel the emotions of players on both teams. Unfortunately, both Cleveland and Cincinnati head into their Week 4 clash sitting at 0-3 apiece. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some solid matchups to watch on Sunday, though.
Here are some of the best player matchups to watch this week as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Cleveland Browns in “The Dawg Pound”.
Bengals safety Shawn Williams versus Browns running back Duke Johnson, Jr.:
Johnson has made a name for himself as a versatile NFL back, creating a nice bailout option for the quarterbacks he’s had over the course of his career. The Browns are excited about what he brings to the 2017 offense and they will likely try to find creative ways to use him on Sunday.
Williams has had a pretty slow start to the season after suffering a dislocated elbow in the preseason. In two games, he has yet to force a turnover or defend a pass. He has always been stout against the run, but he’ll need to be multi-dimensional to keep watch on Johnson.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict versus Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer:
It’s Burfict’s first game back from suspension and the defense will need his prowess with the athletic Kizer under center. After starting the season off on a decent foot against the Steelers, the rookie signal-caller has struggled, throwing seven interceptions against three touchdowns. He’s also running about six times a game, so Cincinnati’s defense can’t let Kizer get a big play on them like Deshaun Watson did a couple of weeks ago.
Even though he gets criticized for his penalties and hits, Burfict is a very instinctual linebacker who has a knack for making big plays. He might have a little rust from the break, but the veteran linebacker should have his eyes on Kizer most of the time.
Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson versus Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas:
Lawson had a breakout game last Sunday, racking up 2.5 sacks from the right defensive end spot. While he showed great tenacity, he was going up against backup Kyle Murphy. That won’t be the case this week, as Lawson will be going up against a future Hall of Fame tackle in Thomas.
What will be interesting to see this week is how many snaps the Bengals give Lawson after such an impressive performance last week. Starter Michael Johnson also had a sack of Aaron Rodgers, so he’s earned some more time as well.
Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah versus Browns safety Jabrill Peppers:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: it looks like the Bengals won’t have the services of Tyler Eifert this week. So, Uzomah and Tyler Kroft will be called upon to fill the massive void left by No. 85. Kroft was more reliable last week in Eifert’s absence, but Uzomah is more explosive.
Peppers was one of the best college football players last year, but as the draft neared, opinions on his abilities varied greatly. He’s playing safety now for the Browns and has just one pass defended, but does have a fumble recovery. Though Peppers is capable of making plays, Bill Lazor would be wise to use the 6’6” frame of Uzomah against the 5’11” Peppers in certain situations.
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green versus Browns cornerback Jason McCourty:
Early in their respective careers, Green and cornerback Joe Haden had some epic battles, with the Pro Bowl wideout getting the better of things more recently. Haden is in Pittsburgh now and Cleveland opted to go with another veteran in McCourty.
Green’s had quite a bit of success against the Browns’ secondary in his career and he could victimize McCourty if the Bengals plan to feed him the ball again, like they did last week in Green Bay.