Things are finally trending up for the Bengals.
Not only did head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals earn their first win last week against the Jets, they have enjoyed a flood of good news since the victory.
It all began when John Ross came off of injured reserve this week and is expected to play Sunday in Cleveland. Then Carlos Dunlap was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after a monstrous performance against the New York Jets.
Followed by a strong week of practice, the Bengals are in the best shape all year and ready to roll for Sunday's "Battle of Ohio" against the Cleveland Browns.
Here are the three things to watch:
1. Let Joe Mixon Eat - Before the season, one of the narratives surrounding the Bengals' offense was building upon running back Joe Mixon's breakout campaign in 2018. However, adjusting to a new offensive line scheme and changing game scripts led to Mixon's sluggish start.
He's turned on the jets recently with four rushing touchdowns in the previous six games. Since the bye week Mixon averaged 20.5 carries for 80.8 yards. The improved run-pass balance will only help quarterback Andy Dalton be more comfortable going through his reads in the pocket, which should lead to him being more efficient.
Last year Mixon struggled against Cleveland's front seven. He rushed for for 78.5 yards per game and did not score a rushing touchdown against the Browns. Mixon understands the Browns' scheme creates a lot of headaches for opposing offenses.
"They like to nickel blitz, blitz with their backer a little bit and create certain fronts to make you get out of what you do," Mixon said. "They are talented on defense, and of course offensively, but we are too."
During Week 14, Bengals players will have the opportunity to showcase their chosen charitable cause on their game cleats. See what they will wear.
2. Contain The Browns Running Game – Speaking of the running game, Cleveland's Nick Chubb only needed 10 games to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing threshold. His elite blend of size, speed and power has helped him average 4.9 yards per carry while rushing for 1175 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
The good news is the Bengals' defense has been much improved. Cincinnati has allowed just one touchdown in the previous 10 quarters and over the previous two weeks, the Bengals' 22 points allowed ranks as the second-fewest in the NFL.
Taylor attributes the improved defense on getting back to executing the fundamentals.
"This week (against the Jets), we tackled much better," Taylor said. "That's going to be critical in this one as well because of the running backs they have. Overall, guys are doing their jobs. They're in their spots. They're pinning the hip in the run game when they're on the back side of things. They're making a lot of good tackles there. It's limiting the run game for some teams we're facing. We're going to need more of that down this back stretch of the season."
3. Disciplined Football – The Browns are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL this season with 99 infractions against them. Conversely, the Bengals are tied with Carolina Panthers for the second-fewest in the league at 67.
The Bengals will not only have a better chance to win at First Energy Stadium without a rash of penalties and mental mistakes, but if they do win, they'll be able to head into their Sunday showdown with the New England Patriots next week with a little bit of positive momentum.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In Cincinnati, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12). Broadcasters are Beth Mowins (play-by-play) and Tiki Barber (analyst).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).