The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Bengals vs Browns – Week 4 – DC Show Preview

bengals vs browns

 

So how about that Week 3 pull-out-all-the-stops win by your Cleveland Browns? To think that Wednesday leading up to the game with Trent Richardson traded and Brian Hoyer leaping from 3rd string to starter, everyone around here already started looking to the 2014 season, and for something else to do this fall and winter besides watching Browns football. Then the unexpected happen, the Browns led by Hoyer and some strong defense played well enough to win, and Minnesota was just awful enough to let them. Who would have thought Josh Gordon was truly going to make that much of an impact? Who would have thought the Browns would call and execute both a fake punt and field goal? Who would have thought Hoyer would have had any chance at all with 3:21 left on the clock and down 3 to navigate a game winning touchdown when his previous 8 possessions went INT, INT, Punt, Turn Over on Downs, INT, Punt, Punt and Punt? Who cares, the Browns won, and by the NFL football gods we’ll take any wins on Sunday we can get around here.

Which brings us to Week 4 and Cincinnati, and with a little bit of good fortune, the Browns might just win again.

Okay, it seems like maybe that should have read, “…it would take a whole Santa Claus filled bag of good fortune for the Browns to win”, but considering Cleveland beat this Bengals team at home last year and have won 2 of the last 3 at home, they might not need as much luck as you think.

One thing you have to immediately like is the word that the Bengals secondary, which through the first three weeks has been one of the best in the league, is all banged up. With CB Terence Newman slowed with a knee injury that had him limited in practice all week, and CB Leon Hall and safety Reggie Nelson listed as doubtful alongside 2012’s #17 overall pick CB Dre Kirkpatrick (who continues to be unable to play much at all due to one injury or another), this #6 overall rated pass coverage defense of the Bengals is looking rather vulnerable.1 Sifting through the Bengals injury report, if you’re Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron coming off the week you just had in Minnesota and their porous secondary, you have to be feeling pretty good about your chances of another good game this week at home. Even Davone Bess will have to be thinking “big day” every time he’s lined up in the slot.

If you’re Brian Hoyer returning to the scene of the crime…I mean, starting the first home game for the team you grew up rooting for, you also have to like your chances. Granted this Cincinnati team is coming into the week as arguably the best team in the AFC North and the odds on favorite to take the division, but it isn’t their defensive secondary you have to be worrying about if you’re the Browns, it’s your own. Though Buster the Skrine has looked at least serviceable the last few weeks, there’s still a good reason why his coverage has been targeted 5th most in the NFL, and if opposing QB’s continue to complete 65.4% of their passes against him and post a QBR of 103.2, you can sure expect that trend will continue.

Look for Andy Dalton and his cream dream of receiving weapons to truly test the Browns coverage everywhere on the field. And as much as this will be the real challenge for Cleveland all afternoon in finding ways to stop the Bengals passing attack, it does have a weakness. If Ray Horton’s blitzkrieg can successfully be led this week by the rookie lightning bolt on the edge called Barkevious Mingo (who’s getting his first start filling in for injured Jabaal Sheard), the Bengals hope of notching another win will surely be tested. This certainly won’t be an easy task, however, because as opposed to 2012 when Dalton’s lack of protection made him one of the most harassed QBs in the NFL just behind Aaron Rogers and Philip Rivers, the Bengals offensive line in pass protection this year has looked elite in only allowing 30 total pressures and 5 sacks so far.2 The key though is getting pressure, and that’s because as much as there’s been said about how bad Brandon Weeden is under duress (with good reason), Andy Dalton has been almost as bad. When pressured this year his drop in numbers has been extreme yet again, seeing his completion percentage go from 75% unpressured to 26% when pressured, and his QBR sinks from 111.o to 25.9. The defense chasing you around is something no quarterback enjoys, but some QBs are worse at it than others, and Andy’s been overall pretty bad anytime anyone gets near him throughout his career.

 

Keys Matchups To Watch Out For

 – Joe Haden vs. A.J. Green – In the three games these two have squared off against one another Green has caught only 7 passes against Haden, but the problem is, almost every one of them was a big play. Joe’s been successful a large percentage of the time against Green but has only once not allowed Green to find the end zone in a game, and with long catches of 41, 51 and 57 yards, all the big plays for Green have amounted to his averaging 33.4 yards a reception against Joe. This year Haden is off to his best start of the year and many are already calling him a Pro-Bowl lock as he’s so far hasn’t allowed a TD and receivers are only averaging 8.8 yards a catch against him (with the longest being a catch by Torrey Smith for 23 yards). In this game one has to think there’ll be enough touchdowns available elsewhere for Dalton and his receivers, but if Haden can pitch a shutout against Green it could end up the difference in a close game.

Joe Thomas vs. Michael D. Johnson – Much to do about Geno Atkins has finally caught on with most pundits and observers, and with every good reason in the book. This former 4th round steal of a defensive tackle back in 2010 has been arguably the best defensive player in the NFL the last two years, however, this year he hasn’t been as dominant. Whether that’s a trend that’s soon to turn around (most likely the case), the other thing of note today is that Atkin’s never recorded his best games against the Browns, even though he’s as big a dominating threat on the D-line as there is every time he takes the field. His presence will surely be felt, but the guy who truly poses the most threat in this 4-3 defense of Cinci’s will be on the right end lined up across from Joe Thomas. Michael D. Johnson had a break out year last season racking up 13 sacks and 34 QB hurries, and this year he’s not only picked up where he left off, but he looks even better. Joe has always been good at reigning in Johnson, but if this is finally the day where he loses his upper hand, the pressure that could be put on Hoyer’s blindside by Johnson will lead to all kinds of problems.

Brian Hoyer against himself, and against Brandon Weeden – Whether Weeden is bright enough to figure it out or not, Hoyer’s audition for becoming the starting QB began last week, and this week is an even bigger opportunity. The one thing I said going into Week 2 about Weed’s, besides he needs to read the plays and make quicker decisions with the ball and also know when to make adjustments at the line, was that most importantly he simply needed to start winning games, period. Didn’t matter how ugly, didn’t matter what his QBR was or how many INTs he threw, he just needed to win. And what did Brian Hoyer do? His first start might not have been the prettiest, but when the game was on the line with just over 3 minutes left, he marched down the field and capped it off with a touchdown pass to Cameron to take the lead, winning the game. Looking back at Weeden’s 17 games played and his failed attempts to win games when trailing late in the 4th quarter, I found that he’s had 5 different games where he had a chance to win or tie on his final drive, and he’s 0-5. Hoyer is now 1-0.

Whatever it may end up looking like, if Hometown Hoyer continues to lead critical drives that wins games, even if they’re not pretty, and even if he ends up not being the long term answer these Browns are looking for, there’s sure to be some team somewhere wiling tol offer a starting job to him.

Prediction

Believing these teams match strengths against strengths at the line of scrimmage, as well as the Browns passing game getting a possible break with all the health concerns with the Bengals secondary, this game could end up down to the wire and exciting, and I expect it to. With Vegas’ line opening up +6 Browns and now at +3.5, if not exciting, at least it’s looking like the degenerate gamblers are also thinking this game ends up close. Last week I said take the points but expect a loss, and as such, was half right since betting against the spread landed my first accurate prediction of the year. This week, as much as I’d love to say Brian Hoyer, Cameron, Gordon and the Browns defense step up big again and win their second game in a row, I think the air power at Dalton’s disposal will prove to be too much and Cleveland falls to 1-3, losing by 4.

On that note, this week’s beer of DC Show choice is Cleveland’s own, White Rajah by Brew Kettle. Another great local IPA, this tasty beverage is loaded with citra hops and is surprisingly sessionable. I plan on drinking a whole 6 pack tomorrow afternoon.3 I also plan on having two TV’s going once the Tribe start up in Minnesota with first pitch at 2:10pm. No way I’m missing the last game of the regular season with home field advantage of the Wild Card game hanging in the balance because of a Week 4 NFL game. So, cheers to watching both.

Go Cleveland!

-Mike James

Listen every Friday to “Defend Cleveland Friday with Mike and Joe”  by clicking here, a weekly hour long Cleveland sports podcast companion to the DC Show that’s the best way to end you week, and the only way to begin your weekend.

Listen to last Monday’s “The Defend Cleveland Show” in its entirety by clicking here.

The DC Show with host Mike James airs live every Monday morning from 9am-11:30am on WRUW-FM 91.1 Cleveland, and streams world wide here.

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all ratings and statistics posted in these weekly DC Show Browns previews come from the tireless strong work produced by the folks at ProFootballFocus. When possible it is also cross checked with Pro-Football-Reference. PFF really do offer the best insight with their thorough in-depth and unique stats. Also, I’m trying to get my most out of my subscription to them. Win, win. []
  2. By comparison, the much discussed woes of the Browns pass protection has allowed 60 pressures and 14 sacks. Which is why they rank 25th out of 32 teams in pass protection efficiency, and Cincinnati ranks 4th. []
  3. Be sure to follow my slow plunge into buzzville then drunk town by following all my in game posting on Twitter []

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Posted by on Sep 29 2013. Filed under Featured, Show Reports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Bengals vs Browns – Week 4 – DC Show Preview”

  1. […] likely unless the Browns go into Cincinnati and take care of business much like they did at home in Week 4. Bottom line, win this Sunday and football will carry importance each week in Cleveland until the […]

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