Today, the Cleveland Browns face a Cincinnati Bengals team facing big expectations. Much like the Cleveland Browns of 2007, the Bengals had a surprisingly successful season in 2011, and are now in the territory of simply being expected to win. It’s a big change and many teams experience a letdown following a season like that (see: the 2008 Browns).
In other words, the Browns have a chance to create further chaos for the Bengals. Here are five ways in which the Browns can pull off the upset in Cincinnati:
1. Get quarterback Brandon Weeden on track - This is an easy one. If Weeden comes close to replicating his Week One performance, the Browns don’t have much of a shot. He is a typically accurate quarterback, so one hopes his first game was merely something out of character for him, that he’ll be able to hit his open receivers as time goes on.
2. Contain Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green - With cornerback Joe Haden suspended and Sheldon Brown nursing a shoulder injury, it is up to cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Buster Skrine to help shut down the Bengals’ passing offense.
3. Players need to build on good performances - Believe it or not, some players had good games against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi had one of the best games of his career, despite it not showing up in the box score. Linebackers L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson brought stability to an injury-ravaged position. If the Browns are ever going to take a step forward, guys like these cannot simply disappear on a game-to-game basis.
4. Running back Trent Richardson must improve - There is little doubt that Richardson will get better, but until it actually happens, people will be wringing their hands in nervous anticipation. He needs to show why he was the third overall pick in April’s draft, and he needs to do it soon.
5. Score touchdowns - It’s painful that this even has to be mentioned, but Phil Dawson is not going to kick the Browns to a ton of victories. At some point, one would assume the team takes a step towards relevance by scoring touchdowns. The pieces are there; the Browns just need to make it happen.