Let the Battle for Ohio commence as the 2-1 Bengals come into town to face the 0-3 Browns. Do not be fooled by the records in this one folks, as we have seen in the past whenever these two division rivals face off the games tend to be competitive. What can we expect out of this game? I believe the term is ‘smash mouth football’. These are two teams that love to go out there and run the ball.
The Bengals have become a much different team over the past couple of seasons. After failing to be able to recreate the offensive magic of Carson Palmer’s early career in the past few seasons, the Bengals found success last year as a ground and pound team with a tough defense. Despite their big name receivers, the Bengals generally will look to run the ball with Cedric Benson to set up their passing game. However after seeing the Browns struggles against Anquan Boldin and the Ravens passing attack last weekend, don’t be surprised if the Bengals try some long passes, particularly off play-action, early in the game to test the embattled Browns secondary.
Conversely, the Browns will look to patch up the holes that were torn in their defense last week. The return of pass rushing line-backer Marcus Benard, as well as defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman and Shaun Rogers should go a long way towards stabilizing the Browns defense. In addition, corner-back Eric Wright will be looking to have a bounce back game after being embarrassed last weekend. He has received votes of confidence from his coach and his teammates, and he will need that confidence as it is likely the Bengals will try to get him matched up as often as possible with the trash talking duo of Ochocinco and Owens.
On the offensive side of the ball the Browns will be hoping for the return of their starting QB Jake Delhomme. Delhomme practiced this week with the team, but he is listed as questionable on the teams midweek injury report. We probably will not know his status until Sunday morning, as Coach Mangini will look to keep the Bengals guessing on who they will be up against. Even if Delhomme is forced to miss the game, Seneca Wallace has certainly shown that he is a capible backup.
When push comes to shove, running will be the name of the game on Sunday, and these two teams feature running-backs that love to push and shove. After his breakout performance last week at Baltimore, Browns running-back Peyton Hillis has been drawing favorable comparisons to NFL bruisers of the past John Riggins and Larry Csonka. He will look to deliver pain and punishment to a Bengals defense that prides itself on toughness. Conversely, Benson and the Bengals will certainly look to do the same. It’s safe to say it will be toughness, not finesse, that is the deciding factor in who will have bragging rights in Ohio.
Despite their similar styles of play, and their being from the same state, these are two teams who seem to have some obvious philisophical differences which adds a compelling story line to the game. The Bengals have become infamous for the off their field problems. Many people remember the 2006 Bengals and their impressive arrest record. To be fair the Bengals have rid themselves of many of their more problematic players such as Odell Thurman and A.J. Nicholson, yet this remains a franchise that is not scared to take a chance on talented cast-offs from other teams. Look no further than Terell Owens, who has worn out his welcome on nearly every team he has played for and Cedric Benson whose negative attitude was the bane of Bears fans for years before they cut ties with the enigmatic running back. Even when they are not getting in trouble, the Bengals are making headlines through their unofficial spokesman Chad Ochocinco. In contrast, Coach Mangini runs a pretty tight ship with his Browns. Players and coaches have very little exposure to media, and the Browns tend to shy away from controversial players, which they proved by trading away the talented Braylon Edwards last season.
Look for desparation and determination out of the reeling Browns this week. This is a team that would love nothing more than to give their home crowd something to feel good about. And despite the obvious disparity in talent, this will certainly be a tricky game for the Bengals to navigate. Expect a hard fought game on both sides.
About the Author
Written by Fran Berkman
Francis (Fran) Berkman is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BS in Human Development. He is currently working towards a master's degree in journalism at Hofstra University. He lives in Massapequa, NY.