MATCHUPS:It has all started up front for the Browns in the last three games against the Bengals,. so strap it on for a grinder.Bengals C Rich Braham and Gs Mike Goff and Eric Steinbachhave to get movement onBrowns DTs Gerard Warren and Orpheus Roye.**Bengals RT Willie Anderson takes on Browns DE Courtney Brown in a glamour matchup while Bengals LT Levi Jones takes on Browns pass rusher Mark Word in a low-profile but just as important faceoff. On the other side of the line, Bengals DTs John Thornton and Tony Williams have to outplay and out think rookie Browns C Jeff Faine.
Two weeks after the Browns surrendered his all-time rushing record to Baltimore's Jamal Lewis, Bengals RB Corey Dillon looks to bounce back from his injured groin against Browns SS Robert Griffith. Bengals WR Peter Warrick has to make hay in the slot against rookie Browns cornerback Chris Crocker, and Bengals WR Chad Johnson looks to do what Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens couldn't do and solve Browns CB Daylon McCutcheon.
With Tim Couch back and looking for his main man, Cincinnati needs another solid outing from the secondary and Bengals CB Tory James to limit Browns WR Kevin Johnson. The Browns have failed to establish the run and the Bengals have failed to stop it, so here comes Bengals MLB Kevin Hardy vs. Browns RB William Green.
BRAHAM, GOFF, STEINBACH VS. ROYE, WARREN: The Browns just muscle people up front with about 700 pounds of mass. The working stat here is the Browns' defense has allowed minus-four yards on nine snaps inside their foes' 5-yard line. From their foes' 5, the Bengals have managed one touchdown on a five-yard pass, but they also have just four yards on five carries from the 5, along with two sacks down there. **
ANDERSON VS. BROWN:Brown is starting to look how the No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft should look and should get a few shots at the Bengals' best lineman. With off-season knee surgery on a microfracture under his belt, Brown has already matched last year's total of 11 sacks. Some thought new defensive coordinator Dave Campo's scheme of moving Brown with the tight end would cut down his effectiveness, but he's responded.
JONES VS. WORD _ ** Brown didn't play in last year's first game against Cincinnati and just as soon as Bengals left tackle Richmond Webb exhaled, Word came out of nowhere for a career game of three sacks. Word, a pure speed rusher from the edge who plays on passing downs, added another sack in the next game against the Bengals, and he's already got two this season. Jones had a big game in Oakland two weeks ago, but looked like he was involved in three sacks of Jon Kitna last week against the Steelers. But Cincinnati is still high on Jones and thinks more consistency is going to make him an elite tackle.
THORNTON, WILLIAMS VS. FAINE: The Browns were supposed to take Iowa's Steinbach with the 21st pick and the Bengals were supposed to take Notre Dame's Faine at No. 32. They know Faine is going to be a fine player, but at the moment defenses seem to be using his inexperience to confuse him (and therefore the rest of the line) with different looks and blitzes. Kelly Holcomb didn't get two bad ankles by sitting in the pocket unscathed. The Bengals have two just sacks and have to solve tackles Barry Stokes and Ryan Tucker, who have been released a total of 11 times. **
DILLON VS. GRIFFTH:: Lewis got most of his 295 yards against the Browns like Dillon got many of his 278 against Denver: On vicious cutbacks. Griffith, who is playing with a broken index finger on his right hand, may have trouble wrapping up tackles. He's Cleveland's eighth guy in the box, but don't think they're easy to run on. They've allowed 485 yards rushing, but 30 percent of those come on Lewis' touchdown runs of 82 and 63 yards. The Browns gave the Colts Edgerrin James just 67 yards and San Francisco's Garrison Hearst 18.
WARRICK VS. CROCKER:** The Browns can't like this matchup in the slot on third down. Warrick, who continues to lead the AFC with eight third-down catches, hopes to add to his total of two third-down TDs against Crocker, a third-round pick out of Marshall.
CHAD JOHNSON VS. McCUTCHEON: See how the Browns play it after they've held up against the NFL's two top receivers. McCutcheon pretty much locked up with Harrison and held him to 44 yards on nine catches. San Francisco moved Owens all over the place, but Owens barely averaged 10 yards per his eight catches. Harrison and Owens, who combined for 24 touchdowns last season, didn't get into the end zone against Cleveland. Johnson, who leads the AFC in receiving with 303 yards, wants to be mentioned in the same breath with those guys. He can go one better with a 100-yard game and a touchdown catch. Only the Browns and Bucs haven't allowed a touchdown pass this season. **
KEVIN JOHNSON VS. JAMES:Johnson's two best games of his career came against the Bengals, but they were in losses. He had 153 yards in the Oct. 14, 2001 loss in Cincinnati and 135 yards in the final game at Cinergy Field. The word has always been Couch locks on to Johnson and sees no one else. Of course, Holcomb saw enough of him last week in San Francisco for a career-high 11 catches and 109 yards. James has been terrific and is a major reason the Bengals are ranked fourth in NFL pass defense. After winning the duel at the line, he has been very solid running downfield with receivers.
HARDY VS. GREEN:** The Bengals are giving up 152 yards a game on the ground and it's just too much. The Steelers hadn't run the ball, either, in the first two games, but got healthy against Cincinnati. Green has yet to get it going with no 100-yard games and a mere 101 in the past two games on 32 carries.
NUMBERS GAME: All the numbers you need for Sunday's game in Cleveland, including 4. As in, since Bengals running back Corey Dillon made his first Opening Day start in 1998, he has never opened a season with four straight sub-100 yard games. He has opened with three sub 100-yarders in '98 and 2000, but went for 116 in Baltimore and 110 at home against Miami, respectively. His high game this year is 84 yards and he had to leave last Sunday after seven carries for 26 yards with a strained groin.
4-0 _ Bengals' record against Cleveland when running back Corey Dillon rushes for at least 130 yards.
117.6 _ Yards Dillon averages per game in eight outings against the Browns.
23_ Carries Dillon averages against Cleveland.
2 _ How many times Dillon has carried at least 23 times in the last 14 games.
0-10 _ Bengals' record in their last 10 division road games in September.
9/18/88 _ Date of Bengals' last victory in a division road game in September. (17-12 in Pittsburgh.)
49.8 _ Browns quarterback Tom Couch's passer rating in five games against the Marvin Lewis-led Ravens' defense.
83.2 _ Couch's passer rating in six games against the Bengals.
10 _ Fourth quarter wins for Couch, his first one coming on Halloween of '99 in New Orleans.
15 – Wins for Bengals since Oct. 31, 1999.
57 _ Couch's career touchdown passes since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 1999.
56 _ Touchdown passes thrown by the Bengals since taking Akili Smith No. 3 in 1999. (Jon Kitna 31, Jeff Blake 16, Smith 5, Scott Mitchell 3, Gus Frerotte 1.)