Things have changed greatly in a few, short days between the Bengals and the Browns heading into their Monday night clash. Ja’Marr Chase is out of the lineup, but the Browns are also missing their starting quarterback, tight end and more.
Even so, we know the passion is going to be there for this next installment of “The Battle of Ohio”. We tapped SB Nation’s Chris Pokorny for the inside scoop on things going into Halloween.
1.) AC: What is it about the recent matchups, in your estimation, that makes this such a bad one for the Bengals? Even their Super Bowl team last year was swept by an underachieving Browns team (Bengals did rest starters in the final game) and Zac Taylor can’t seem to figure out a consistent way to beat Cleveland, unlike his predecessor.
CP: It’s just one of those things, lol — I wish I had a good, detailed breakdown to give you, but there are certain years where the Browns seem to have the Bengals’ number. Maybe it’s a Battle of Ohio game. In the one matchup two years ago, who would’ve thought that Baker Mayfield would’ve basically gone perfect for the final three quarters, throwing 5 touchdowns including an improbable one on the final drive?
At its root, I think the Bengals not having a dominant defense has helped matters; I’ve never gotten the feeling that Cleveland would struggle to run or pass against Cincinnati. The Bengals’ offense is usually solid, but sometimes has those turnover-friendly games against Cleveland. And look at this week — Ja’Marr Chase is already out, as if to spell another good omen for the Browns.
2.) AC: We know that Jacoby Brissett was brought in to be a placeholder until Deshaun Watson comes back from suspension. What was he doing well to start the season and what has happened negatively in the four-game skid?
CP: There has really only been one bad game for Jacoby Brissett, and that came two weeks ago against the Patriots. He was also pretty rough in our Week 1 win, but that one was attributed to rust (because Deshaun Watson still took most of the reps in training camp).
Brissett runs the quarterback sneak very well. That may sound silly, but in all the 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 situations, we just sneak it with him for an automatic conversion (note: it was stopped once by the Patriots).
He throws very good intermediate balls, usually zipping it in to his receiver low where only they can catch it. His decision-making is usually pretty good. He has played well above my expectations for him; but unfortunately, he’s had a chance in 3-4 games to play the hero on the final drive, and right on the verge of 55-60 yard field goal range, he seems to throw an interception, or can’t get the ball any further for the rally.
3.) AC: Aside from potentially Brissett playing a bit better, what do you think is the remedy (remedies) for the Browns to get out of their funk and back into the AFC North picture?
CP: Brissett playing better in that key moment would help, but he’s not the reason we’ve been losing: that belongs to the disappointing defense, which struggled against the pass in the first few games, and then were exposed for their atrocious run defense and tackling.
Last week, they had their best defensive game of the season against the Ravens (although it was merely an average defensive game — low standards). They need to be better with their consistency against the run, so that teams are forced to pass on third down where Myles Garrett can be more of a factor.
4.) AC: Cleveland has previously-used tight end David Njoku and others to make some problems for Cincinnati in the past. Njoku appears to be out this week, with Pharaoh Brown and Harrison Bryant also nursing issues. Who might step up in that spot this week and which receivers should we be watching not names Amari Cooper?
CP: I wouldn’t expect any other tight ends to come out of the woodwork, but I’m hoping an adjustment is that Cleveland tries to incorporate Kareem Hunt into the passing game more.
At receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones still fails to get much separation from defensive backs, but he is catching all of those tightly-contested passes to be a viable No. 2 receiver. After him, the other receivers are both rookies (David Bell and Michael Woods) who haven’t seen much action, so I can’t really predict a big day for them.
5.) AC: Since the Ja’Marr Chase injury, DraftKings has the line moved from Cincinnati being 6.5-point favorites to just three-point favorites. How do you feel about that line and what’s your prediction in this one now that “Uno” is out?
CP: That does make a big difference. I would’ve loved to have snagged the line at +6.5, just because Cleveland has had the Bengals’ number for a couple of years. At +3, a field goal would still be a push. I’m actually taking the Browns in the upset this week, so I would still take the +3 if I was a betting man.
Our thanks to Chris Pokorny over at Dawgs by Nature for the sit-down. Go check their site for more coverage on this game, as well as the happenings of the Bengals’ big rivals.