There’s nothing easy about what looks like a trap game for the Cincinnati Bengals with the Cleveland Browns in town on Sunday.
Those Bengals want to get back on track after a humiliating upset at the hands of the New York Jets last week that dropped them to 5-3. But it’s easier said than done territory as a Myles Garrett-led Cleveland pass-rush looks to feast again like it did last year.
Cleveland is about as desperate as it gets. Sure, the Odell Beckham Jr. drama served as a distraction for the team this week, but it’s no great secret Baker Mayfield and the offense are better when Beckham’s not on the field — that’s one big reason they’re letting him go.
Also boosting the desperation factor is Cleveland’s 4-4 record that has them last in the AFC North. Should the Browns fall to 4-5, they’re looking at two dates with Baltimore over their next four games as the season flirts with being lost.
Still, these Browns average just 22.9 points per game and just lost to Pittsburgh. Mayfield has been fine, but he’s playing through an injury.
Garrett and that Browns defense is the biggest problem for the Bengals. Last year while the Browns swept the season series, he posted three sacks and two forced fumbles. Cincinnati’s offensive line is better this year, but better isn’t usually good enough. Much of today’s game will come down to how well the coaching staff helps the offensive tackles with extra bodies like tight ends, etc.
If there’s a saving grace, it’s that the Trey Hendrickson-led Cincinnati pass-rush should probably hit home plenty too. And if it comes to trusting Joe Burrow or Mayfield to navigate pressure without critical mistakes, the home team has the advantage.
Both teams have been up and down this year and fans know all too well that these things tend to turn into massive shootouts at random. But when it comes down to it, provided the defense comes ready to actually tackle and the coaching staff doesn’t botch its contain of Garrett, the home team should be able to squeak by in round 1 before seeing the Browns again to end the season.
Prediction: Bengals 30, Browns 27
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