Browns vs. Bengals: 3 keys to watch on Sunday

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns are looking to avoid an 0-11 start when they face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Here are three keys to watch for during the game.

The Cleveland Browns have had a rough go of it since returning to the NFL in 1999, but nowhere have things been more dire than within the AFC North Division.

Starting from their rebirth as an expansion team, and continuing through more rebuilds, reboots and restructurings than imaginable, the Browns have gone:

  • 6-32 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have lost 25 of the past 28 meetings
  • 9-28 against the Baltimore Ravens, and have lost 17 of the past 19 meetings
  • 12-25 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and have lost 14 of the past 18 meetings

Head coach Hue Jackson has yet to win a division game as he currently sits at 0-9, a healthy contribution to Cleveland’s overall record of just 27-85 within the division, which works out to a winning percentage of .241.

Jon Snow may be King of the North, but the same cannot be said of the guys in Orange and Brown.

Cleveland will be back at it on Sunday as they travel south along I-71 to face the Cincinnati Bengals. The two teams met in Week 4 and the Bengals walked out of FirstEnergy Stadium with a 31-7 victory.

That defeat was the sixth in a row for the Browns vs. the Bengals, a streak that has seen the Browns be outscored by a combined total of 183-47.

While the Browns are bad, the Bengals are not very good themselves as they are just 4-6 and have lost two of their last three games, albeit all on the road.

So here are three areas to watch today in the hopes that the Browns can finally celebrate a Victory Monday in 2017.

Give it to the Duke

Every week the Browns come into a game claiming they will run the ball and take some of the pressure off rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, and every week they abandon the running game once the fourth quarter (or earlier) rolls along.

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The worse case was two weeks ago when the Browns rushed for 201 yards but went pass happy in the fourth quarter despite trailing by just seven points.

The numbers were not as impressive last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Jackson still bungled the day by only giving running back Duke Johnson six touches on the day. Never mind that Johnson scored the Browns lone touchdown on a 27-yard pass reception and averaged five yards per carry, there were apparently better options, at least in Jackson’s mind.

That is why it continues to be frustrating to hear Jackson, and this week running backs coach Kirby Wilson, talk about how important it is to involve Johnson in the offense and then ignore him on Sundays.

The Bengals come into the game ranked No. 27 against the run as they are giving up an average of 122.4 yards per game.

It seems like a pretty easy decision on what the game plan should be on Sunday.

A potential rough day for DeShone Kizer

Sunday’s game makes the first time that rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer will face an opponent for the second time.

The first meeting was not a memorable one for Kizer as he was just 16-of-34 for 118 yards, an interception and a sack.

Kizer could be in for another rough day on Sunday, however, as the Bengals prefer to put as many defenders in coverage as possible, as opposed to attacking the quarterback. That is bad news for Kizer, according to Pro Football Focus, as Kizer’s passer rating when facing a four-man (or less) pass rush is 52.7, which is the league’s worse by a wide, wide margin as Baltimore Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco is 23.8 points better than Kizer.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns /

Slow down Andy Dalton

It seems weird to write this, but the Browns need to find a way to get a handle on Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton.

In the six-game losing streak the Browns have allowed Dalton to complete 72 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and just one interception. The Dalton domination hit a peak in Week 4 when he went 17-of-18 for 215 yards and three touchdowns in just the first half.

Next: Hue Jackson nearing 40-year record for futility

If the Browns let Dalton have another day like that on Sunday then it will be a rough afternoon for the good guys.