The Cleveland Browns will look for their first win of the season on Sunday when they face the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC North game. We caught up with Stripe Hype to talk about the game.
The Cleveland Browns hit the road on Sunday to face the Cincinnati Bengals in their second AFC North game of the season.
The Browns may be the only winless team in the NFL, but don’t let anyone convince you that the Bengals are much better. Cincinnati enters the game at 2-4 on the season and have lost four of their past five games.
While the Browns have fared poorly against division foes since 1999, they have found some success against the Bengals in winning three of the past seven match ups. (Hey, you take your victories where you can find them.)
Question: The Bengals come into the game with what has to be a disappointing 2-4 record. What seems to be the problem?
Matthew: The Bengals 2-4 record is disappointing, but they have also faced one of the toughest schedules in the NFL so far. They have faced the Denver Broncos (4-2), New England Patriots (5-1), Dallas Cowboys (5-1) and Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2). They are not the same team as last season as losing Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Reggie Nelson has not helped this team. However, they have yet to have Tyler Eifert, who is arguably the most valuable weapon Andy Dalton has on this team, on the field Eifert’s absence changes the game plan.
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The other problem is the defense. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense has yet to stop both aspects of offensive play. When they stop the pass, they let teams run all over them, and when they stop the run, the passing game opens wide up for other teams. They need to find a strong balance of stopping the running game while getting more pressure into the backfield and force bad decisions from quarterbacks. Guenther should be on a very short leash, if I was Marvin Lewis, Katie Blackburn and Mike Brown.
Question: How much does the offense miss Hue Jackson – if at all?
Matthew: Hue Jackson was a huge part of this offensive game plan last season and is missed from his creative style of play to his fire. This Bengals organization made a mistake in who they replaced Jackson with. This team had an identity under Jackson and they seem to be missing that this season, as well as the creativity to keep defenses guessing.
They say that there are great coordinators who make terrible head coaches, and Hue Jackson has been put in a difficult position in Cleveland. However, you can see the offensive success with the Browns but not much defense to back it up. The Bengals haven’t been able to score as much this season and have not stopped a good team past the first half yet this season. It is definitely something Hue Jackson is being largely missed for.
Question: The Browns continue to have trouble containing tight ends. What’s the status of Tyler Eifert and, even if he can’t go on Sunday, who is the backup tight end set to have a career day?
Matthew: Tyler Eifert is back at practice as of Wednesday and was present again for Thursday’s session, so it looks as if he is getting ready for what is expected to be his debut at Paul Brown Stadium. If he cannot go for whatever reason, C.J. Uzomah will be the next man up with Tyler Kroft on the other side of the field. Either way, the Bengals have a capable target at tight end, the real question is can anyone on the offensive line block for Andy Dalton?
Question: There was some handwringing when the Browns let Karlos Dansby go in the off-season, especially since he was arguably the best defensive player last season. How is he working out in Cincinnati?
Matthew: Karlos Dansby leads the team so far in combined tackles and has two pass deflections. He has helped this team in the wins they have against the Jets and Dolphins. I expect that between Dansby’s knowledge of the defensive players in Cleveland and the Bengals knowledge of Hue Jackson, it could help give the Bengals an edge in game planning.
Dansby is going to be a factor on Sunday against the Browns, how much of a factor? Well that will be up to him and the Bengals.
Question: Who is a player (or players) that Browns fans may not be familiar with to keep an eye on this Sunday?
Matthew: The Browns are somewhat familiar with Brandon LaFell, from his rookie year in Carolina and Tyler Boyd from his time about 2 hours south at the University of Pittsburgh, but both players will be a key in still being an outlet for Dalton on Sunday.
LaFell has 23 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He has been targeted 37 times and has a completion percentage of 62 percent, which is the same percentage that he had as a Patriot in their Super Bowl year in 2014.
Boyd has been under utilized in this Bengals offense but has proven valuable when he has seen targets. He has caught 19 passes on 27 targets for 242 yards but has yet to find the end zone. His 12.7 yards per catch average has helped continue drives and he is just a rookie. I expect both could see more targets with Eifert pulling more attention over the middle, freeing up both receivers on the outside and in the slot.
Question: What’s the prediction for the game?
Matthew: The Bengals have yet to allow an under-.500 team to beat them this season and I expect that to continue on Sunday. Bengals win 28-20.