Cleveland Browns vs Bengals: 5 Questions with Stripe Hype
Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) celebrates with fans after defeating the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, so we caught up with Stripe Hype‘s co-editor, Matt Wilson, and asked him a few questions in preparation for the divisional battle.
1. After the 8-0 start the Bengals have lost two of three. What happened in those two losses, both of which were close?
Matt: We can call the Houston game what it was, a terrible showing by the Bengals offensive line and wide receivers. The Arizona game was anything but terrible. The offense scored over 30 points and the defense suffered injuries that made it difficult on the secondary to keep up, since almost every reserve player saw time in that game. Arizona is no push over and that loss isn’t a question of what happened, it was a way to hang in there and keep up with one of the top teams in the NFL. They do happen to have the second record in the NFC right now.
2. Is this the year Andy Dalton finally leads his team deep into the playoffs? If so, what is different this year?
Matt: I don’t want to jump the gun and say that yes he is going to lead this team deep. We still have five games to play and one or two key injuries could put the Bengals right back into the, if only, category. If this offense stays healthy and if the defense can return to full strength, this team is one of the best in the NFL and they are as good as any teams in super bowl contention.
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As for what is different, This offense is healthy and this defense has its two leading players in Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict back in midseason form. Andy Dalton has more confidence and it seems like Hue Jackson has loosened the reins on Dalton to allow him to call and change plays at the line. This team is showing the confidence we haven’t seen since Boomer Esiason and the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals.
3. Do you think the Bengals could beat either the Patriots or Broncos in the playoffs, or are they still not at that elite level?
Matt: The Bengals could definitely beat the Broncos, if this team is healthy and they would hang with the Patriots, this season. We have yet to see the Broncos, who they will in week 16, with plenty more film then the Patriots had of Osweiler. They don’t see the Patriots this season, at least unless they face off in the playoffs. They are as good as any team, and this defense has stopped teams like the Steelers at Heinz Field, and the Seattle Seahawks in Cincinnati. They have one all but one game they were massively favored in.
The playoffs are always going to loom over this team until they win. Are they to that point where they can play and beat elite teams, absolutely. Am I going to call them elite? Absolutely not, they still have hurdles, but they have beaten two teams with Elite leadership already this season and they still have two games left.
4. What is the one thing the Bengals must specifically focus on when taking on the Browns?
Matt: Not to get too far ahead of themselves. The Bengals are usually very good at looking toward the opponent right in front of them, but a couple of easy games could have gone either way and I think focus was a part of them slipping. The Ravens game was the best example of this, with a 14 point lead going into the second half, not only did the Bengals get walked all over, but allowed the Ravens to come back twice before putting the game away on their final drive.
If you want to avoid the cliché of looking to the next opponent, their balance on offense has been the key to every game. If they can establish both a run and pass game, they dominate the ball. When they don’t they are only winning games by 4 points or less. Balance is the key to everything this offense does.
5. Prediction for the game?
Matt: No offense to Austin Davis or any of the Cleveland defenders, because I like their offensive and defensive lines, but Joe Haden missing on A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins not beating this Bengals secondary leads me to think this a season sweep for the Bengals. Bengals win 31-10