When the Cleveland Browns franchise made its return to the NFL in 1999, it turned out to be great news for their in-state rivals.
For much of the 2000s, the Cincinnati Bengals dominated this series, including seven-straight wins from 2014-17.
However, the script was flipped once Baker Mayfield joined the Browns in 2018, as they’ve now won seven of that last eight meetings in this series, including four straight entering the 2022 season.
Now, the Browns are set to get a major QB upgrade in the form of Deshaun Watson, who is arguably a top-five quarterback in this league when healthy and not facing a prolonged NFL suspension.
By now, you know all about Watson’s legal issues and potential to be suspended for most, if not the entire 2022 season, so the Bengals may not face him until the 2023 season.
Admittedly, I’m still very skeptical the NFL would suspend one of its superstars for an entire season. But for now, that’s what I’m projecting.
If that occurs, then the Bengals absolutely need to sweep this series assuming Jacoby Brissett is the starting QB for Cleveland. Brissett is a decent backup, but he’s not someone the Bengals should allow to win at Paul Brown Stadium.
After narrowly taking the first game in Cleveland, I see the Bengals getting a more comfortable win this time around. Adding to the importance of this game is bouncing back from the Week 13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
It also helps that the Bengals will absolutely have a chip on their shoulder both times they face the Browns this season after getting dominated in this series since 2018. It’s time to flip the script back into Cincinnati’s favor in the Battle of Ohio.
ESPN FPI: Bengals have a 51.6% chance to win.
My prediction if Watson is out: Bengals 30, Browns 16
My predicted record thus far: 11-2
Let us know how you see this matchup playing out!