Another week, another crushing defeat for the Cincinnati Bengals. A feeling that is all too common this season, the Bengals went on to lose another game by single digits in Week 6 to the Indianapolis Colts. This would mark the third time this year where that has occurred.
Last week’s contest looked all but in hand in the first half. The Bengals started the game pretty hot, taking a 21-point lead before the Colts would respond with a flurry of scores in the second and fourth quarters. Indianapolis went on to win the game, 31-27, a game which became the first in franchise history to result in a loss after leading 21-0 after the first quarter.
For Week 7, the Cincinnati Bengals return home to Paul Brown Stadium for part two of 2020’s “Battle of Ohio”, versus the Cleveland Browns. In the second game of this season, the two AFC-North foes surprisingly put on a show, with Cleveland just getting the better of Cincinnati in a 35-30 game. This time around, the ascending quarterback Joe Burrow has four more games under his belt. The offense has been showing signs of improvement. A home-crowd presence will be present (albeit a limited capacity). Week 2 was a thriller and Week 7 is setting up to be one as well.
The Browns come into the game with a 4-2 record after falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, 38-7. Cincinnati leads the all-time series between the two teams, 51-43. The Bengals are also 31-16 at home against Cleveland.
Kickoff: Sunday, October 25, 2020, at 1:00 PM EST.
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
Television Broadcast: The game will be aired on CBS-TV. Locally, it will air in the Bengals TV region; Cincinnati’s WKRC-TV (Ch. 12), Lexington’s WKYT-TV (Ch. 27), as well as Dayton’s WHIO-TV (Ch. 7). The play-by-play will be done by Spero Dedes, and former NFL safety Adam Archuleta will serve as the analyst.
Radio Broadcast: The match-up will be aired locally via Bengals Radio Network. The radio broadcast will be headed by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530), WEBN-FM (102.7), and WLW-AM (700). Dan Hoard will handle the play-by-play while Dave Lapham will work as analyst.
Weather: High of 52. Cloudy with 84% humidity and winds NE at 9 mph. 10% chance of rain. (The Weather Channel)
Line: CLE -3.0
Three Things to Watch
- Defensive line rotation…
One of the focal points of this game for many Cincy fans will be seeing how the defensive line shakes out. As we all know by now, the Bengal’s star defensive tackle and big-money offseason acquisition D.J. Reader, was lost for the season due to an injury sustained in Week 5. The team did have a major reinforcement with the return of All-Pro DT Geno Atkins, however Atkins has only been able to log a limited number of snaps since he’s come back from injury. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has caused up a stir in the past few days regarding his frustrations with the team. There’s been rumors that the team may put him on the trade block, so it’ll be interesting to see just how much he plays in this game, if at all. Cincinnati brought back a familiar face this week, signing veteran DE Margus Hunt, a 2013 Bengals second-round pick. Most notably, Cincy activated former Pro-Bowl DT Mike Daniels from the Reserve/Injured list. Hunt, Daniels, and Atkins will each provide a steady, solid, veteran presence along the defensive front, with the latter two having significantly more upside.
- Can the O-line continue its growth and chemistry?
After giving up the most sacks on the year entering Week 6, Cincinnati’s offensive line would only give up two sacks against Indianapolis, and a total of six QB hits. Although this line is still suspect at best, it has played better and seems to be gelling more as the season progresses. A big element of O-line play is continuity and chemistry. It may end up paying big dividends down the road with the team keeping some struggling players in the lineup, and allowing them to grow together. The in-game experience, in addition to the linemen being able to get used to each other’s tendencies and strengths/weaknesses should keep those horrid sack numbers down. An upright Joe Burrow, as we’ve seen, is a good Joe Burrow.
- John Ross trade-bait audition?
The 2017 ninth-overall pick has been inactive the last few weeks, including a couple of “healthy scratches.” Though not exactly potent, per se, the Bengals passing attack has been rather decent this year, minus that nightmare in Baltimore — and this has been mainly without the contributions of John Ross III. One would think that just having his presence on the field alone would be a headache for defensive coordinators. Yet Ross hasn’t seen much of the field in 2020 and Burrow has still been able to produce. As the trade deadline approaches (Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 4 PM EST), Cincinnati may only have one more week to showcase Ross to the league and see what they can get for the former first-rounder.
Keys to Victory
- Commit to the run defensively (again) – You may notice that this was one of the keys to last week’s matchup as well. Well, just like the Colts, the Cleveland Browns also boast a powerful rushing attack. In fact, the Browns are the No. 1 running team in the league, rushing for the most total yards (1,017) and the most yards per game (169.5). The Bengals may be catching a break with Cleveland’s Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb out with an injury, but the Browns still have Kareem Hunt to fill in. Hunt was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2017 and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry on the year.
- Attack a weakened interior offensive line – In 2020, the Browns have had a shockingly — dare I say, good — O-line. However, it has taken some significant hits this week. Starting guard Wyatt Teller has been ruled out with a calf injury. Starting center J.C. Tretter has been limited in practice all week with a knee issue. The interior is, without a doubt, one of the strong points of the Browns’ run-game. Teller has been playing at a high level thus far. Losing him, along with the the starting center playing on a bad leg, should give some ground to the big guys Cincy has on their defensive front. This may be the game where we get to see the return of the Geno Atkins we’ve all known over the years — the 8-time Pro Bowl, 3-time All-Pro Geno Atkins — and maybe a Mike Daniels rejuvenation, as well.
- Shade OBJ’s side with safety help – Cleveland hasn’t been shy about getting their star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. more involved on offense. The Bengals should already have their antennas up for Beckham since he scored on a deep pass against them in Week 2. Cincinnati will also be without their best cornerback, William Jackson III, who would’ve likely shadowed the Browns’ wideout. OBJ is a big play waiting to happen and he will still get his fair share of opportunities to make an impact on the game. The Bengals should help make up for the loss of Jackson with some help overtop from Jessie Bates III. A centerfielder and ball-hawk in its truest form, Bates has the coverage skills and athleticism to cover a massive amount of field. He’ll help neutralize the deep shots Cleveland will inevitably take in this game, especially to Beckham.
(Featured Image Credit: Bengals.com)