The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Browns vs Bengals – Week 11 – DC Show Preview

browns vs bengals AFC North

 

It’s Week 11 in the NFL, Thanksgiving is almost here…most days it already looks and feels like winter…and it’s pretty black and white at this point, if the Browns beat the Bengals this Sunday they will be a half game back from controlling their postseason fate in the AFC North.

How long has it been since you could say that? 2007? 1994? The 80’s?

Throughout a large expanse of time and memory Browns fans have by this point in the season already begun waiting for next year. Outside of a fluke in ’07 when the Browns needed to beat these very same Bengals to pave their way to the postseason, this time of year has been solely reserved for pouring over potential draft picks and jotting down the many needs of the team in order of importance. Beyond waiting to see how early Cleveland’s picks will be in the next draft, by mid-November every year the only thing you could be sure of was that you wouldn’t be watching many Browns games of true importance.

Oh how the times they are a changing (finally).

One year under Banner, Lombardi and Coach Chud’s regime, and all of a sudden this doesn’t look like the Cleveland Browns we’ve begrudgingly grown to accept. With 9 games in the books this season has surely had its share of ups and downs (aka – its moments with Weeden and without), but as it looks from here, an 8-8 record no longer seems like a pipe dream forged in the outlandish notions of the Browns die-hard faithful, and an 8-8 season also looks like it would not only put our team right in the hunt for a Wild Card, it could very well be enough to win the AFC North.

Now, as much as all of this is very much true and not just wishful thinking, the reality is none of it is 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 2013 season ends, which could very well not happen until into the postseason. Lose on Sunday…and it will probably be best to go ahead and start researching next year’s draft.

 

Matchups to Watch For

 

– Andy Dalton vs the Browns Pass Rush This season when Andy Dalton posts a QB rating of 100 or better he’s 4-0. When he posts a rating under 100 he’s 2-4, and when he posts a rating lower than 80 he’s 0-3. This difference between a good day and a bad day for Andy? When you get pressure on him he has a bad day.

Problem is getting pressure on him is not so easy because the Bengals not only can keep the pass rush at bay with a pretty strong running game featuring Green-Ellis and Bernard, but they also have the second best pass blocking o-line in the NFL. All told this season, only Peyton Manning has played with less d-men in his face than Dalton, and by league comparison, Andy faces pressure but 27.5% of the time when the NFL average faces this special kind of fun roughly 37% of the time on all dropbacks.

When the pressure gets to Dalton though, much like the Browns achieved Week 4 and what Baltimore and Miami’s top tier pass rush defenses were able to do the last two weeks, Andy Dalton goes from being an elite QB with an average rating of 96.0, to that of a 52.5 rating and being exactly what people are beginning to regularly regard as not the answer at QB in Cincinnati.

Unleash the dawgs on Sunday, Ray Horton. Unleash them all in every way imaginable.

 

– Cincinnati without Geno Atkins – This show as many fans will note has said the last two seasons that Geno Atkins is not only the best defensive lineman in the NFL, he’s the best defensive player, period. He sets everything up for the Bengals and without him I don’t know how anyone could consider this defense and team to be the same. Taking nothing away from Brandon Thompson who has filled in quite well, but with Atkins out for the year the Bengals front 7 is completely different. Advantage Cleveland.

 

– Cleveland Browns vs Mistakes – As much as the national prognosticators and Vegas are picking this game to go to the Bengals, this show sees the Browns possessing a slight edge. The winner, however, ultimately could come down to whoever makes the least amount of costly mistakes. With the bye week rest and extra prep helping to negate some of the home field advantage, I expect the advantage of the Bengals offensive strength to be mostly negated by Cleveland’s defensive strength (again, just like in Week 4). The difference, conversely, is that the Bengals currently depleted defense offers just enough advantage to this Browns offense.

You’ve probably heard by now that Campbell compared to his 5 touchdowns has yet to throw an INT this season, which isn’t comparable to Brandon Weeden who probably doesn’t have 5 plays all year where he didn’t make a mistake. This team is clearly different without the Full Weeden controlling fate and a large part of that is due to decision making and play calling. Beyond a big bag of trickery and 4th downs being the new black, Campbell gives the Chud and Norv Turner more of a playbook to work given his experience and versatility.1 This balance struck between effective QB and playbook keeps defenses honest, even without a proper running threat. It also helps enable the likes of Little and Bess to shine if the other options of Gordon and Cameron are occupied. And who knows, maybe even Ogbonnaya breaks off a big day. Hey, without Geno Atkins, I’m telling you, nothing can be ruled out as impossible.

Honestly, about the only thing that looks capable of unraveling this positive momentum of our new look Browns on Sunday would be a bunch of turnovers. Just like in 2007 with a postseason hanging in the balance and Derek Anderson in less than 60 seconds threw back-to-back interceptions that led to two quick Bengal touchdowns just before the half. You remember, it was all of a sudden 19-0 Cincinnati and the cries of, “YOU’VE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!”, were clearly audible throughout all of Browns nation.

It’s something we of course are all too familiar with. Here’s hoping it doesn’t end up the case on Sunday. 

 

Prediction

I don’t get it, and honestly, I don’t want to. I’ve looked at this game every which way and though I’ll concede the Bengals still have the talent to win and go on to eventually claim the AFC North crown, with Dalton at the helm and not looking like the future for this club, Marvin Lewis making frequent suspect decisions, and most importantly no Geno Atkins, I don’t see the same Cincinnati team that crushed the Jets and beat very good Packers, Patriots and Lions teams. I see a team that’s lost two in a row and a team that the Browns matched up well with and beat in Week 4 that’s now weakened and on the verge of unraveling. I can’t see it any other way, really, I see the Cleveland Browns beating the Cincinnati Bengals and winning their 3rd straight game against their Ohio rivals.

And Vegas can take the -6 points it’s giving Cincinnati and blow it out their collective ass.

What happens Week 12 and the rest of the season after this win? That is something we can begin to tackle on Monday’s show. For now, let’s just try to stay focused solely on Cleveland winning Week 11.

Go Browns!

-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.

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  1. See the near 75% shotgun calls for Weeden and then look at Week 9 against Baltimore with Campbell where  more plays were called under center than shotgun for the first time this season. []

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Posted by on Nov 15 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

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