The Cincinnati Bengals play host to the 4-5 Cleveland Browns today at 1pm. The Bengals enter the contest with the AFC North division lead, but the Browns are nipping at their heels, looking to make it a clean sweep of Cincinnati this year.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, has had some great games this year, making great decisions and hitting his receivers in stride to help them make some plays. Recently, the bad Andy Dalton has shown up, and in turn the Bengals have dropped two straight games.
The loss of defensive end Geno Atkins on the defensive side of the ball, has really hurt the Bengals with the other teams offensive coordinator no longer needing to commit and extra guy to double team Atkins. In turn, this opens up what you can do on offense, especially in the passing game.
To learn a little more about what to expect from the Bengals this week, we contacted Jason Marcum, Editor from the Bengals fan site Stripe Hype. Here is what Jason had to say about this year’s Bengals team. I hope you all enjoy his insight as much as I did.
Browns vs. Bengals Q&A with Stripe Hype’s own Jason Marcum
JM: It’s been tough but they’re doing good with Brandon Thompson in his place. He’s more of a space eater and doesn’t shoot into the backfield as well as Atkins did, but he maintains his gap and keeps linebackers unblocked. His play has been surprising to say the least, and through two games, the loss of Atkins has been made up for by his play, as well as Mike Zimmer being more innovative with his defense. He’ll line up James Harrison at defensive tackle, kick either Carlos Dunlap or Michael Johnson in at tackle, etc. The defense has been without Atkins, which is shocking to say the least.
MR: When Andy Dalton has been on this year, he has really played lights out, limiting mistakes and putting the ball right on his receivers. At the same time, when he has played bad it has been really bad. What do you think Dalton needs to do to limit the bad games and make sure he puts forth a strong performance each week?
JM: He struggles when one of these things happens:
1. He locks onto A.J. Green and doesn’t spread the ball around.
2. The weather is bad and Dalton with his already limited arm strength can’t drive the ball and it become a game of Duck Hunter for opposing defenses.
3. He gets hit a lot and starts seeing ghosts in the pocket.
All three of those happened last week, leading to one of the worst games of his career. The weather should be fine Sunday, so if the Browns can just pressure him, they can force him into another bad game. I don’t think he’ll make the same mistake twice of locking onto Green with Joe Haden blanketing him.
MR: In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Cincinnati Bengals team?
JM: I basically stated them above. The strength is the defense, even with out Geno Atkins. They’ve managed to still play like a top-1 defense and will once again be what this team lives and dies on. Dalton is a weakness. He can be a strength in some games, but his inability to avoid these cold-streaks he goes on makes him a liability that keeps this team from reaching its full potential.
MR: The Bengals defense has played tough all year up to this point. If you are Cleveland’s
offense, how do you attack this group?
JM: Quick-strike offense. Don’t run plays that take a while to develop and allow the Bengals’ pass rush to get to Jason Campbell. Throw a lot of quick hitches, screens, and in/out routes. Just go back to the first matchup. Travis Benjamin’s screen-pass was one of the biggest plays of the first matchup in a game that was devoid of efficient offense by either team. I would say establish a run game, but the Browns have a had a tough time doing that against anyone.
MR: Finally, what are your expectation for the Bengals when they step on the field against the Browns on Sunday? Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
JM: It will be a hard-fought game that’s close throughout and comes down to the fourth-quarter. If the Bengals play like their season is on the line, I’m confident they’ll win. But if they don’t play with the same urgency that I’m sure Cleveland will be playing with, the Browns could very-well steal this one in the end.
But I’m going with the Bengals, 24-20
I would love to thank Jason for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Please make sure to check back every week for the remainder of the season. We will attempt to check in with an editor or staff writer from the Browns opposing team each week until the season is over and get their insight on that week’s matchup.