The "Battle of Ohio" between the Bengals and Browns is an important divisional matchup featuring two teams looking for their first win of the season.
Here are the three things to watch in Cincinnati's first road game of 2020.
1. Limiting Costly Mistakes – Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said after the Chargers game that his team made too many mistakes and left a bunch of big plays on the field. It was understandable to hear his frustration after the Bengals committed two turnovers and seven penalties. Despite all of that, the Bengals still had a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds. Cutting down on those mistakes was a point of emphasis not only from Taylor, but the players as well.
For Cleveland, Week 1 felt like everything that could go wrong did in their 38-6 opener against the Baltimore Ravens. In head coach Kevin Stefanski's debut there was an interception by Baker Mayfield on the opening drive, a fumble on a fake punt, a missed extra point and field goal by their former kicker (now a Cincinnati Bengal) Austin Seibert, a 99-yard drive surrendered by the defense and a drop on 3rd and 2 in the red zone by Odell Beckham Jr.
With each team getting only four days to prepare for Thursday night's contest, limiting costly errors like turnovers and miscommunications will only be amplified as each team looks for win No. 1.
2. Big Names, Big Impact? – A.J. Green and Beckham are arguably two of the most recognized wide receivers in the game. Yet both are trending in different directions heading into Week 2.
All signs were encouraging with Green who led the Bengals with five receptions for 51 yards while playing in his first game since Dec. 2, 2018. Green could have had a sixth reception and his first touchdown of the year, but was flagged for offensive pass interference after he pushed off Chargers defensive back Casey Hayward. Postgame, Green said he felt good, which is good news for the Bengals. Green has shredded Cleveland for 62 catches, 953 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 career games.
Beckham grinded through a solid, but disappointing 2019 battling injuries and erratic offensive play. In five seasons with the New York Giants, Beckham averaged 92.8 yards per game and three Pro Bowl selections. He was traded in 2019 and last season for the Browns had 1,035 receiving yards, but career lows of 64.7 yards per game and four touchdowns. Fast forward a year later and the same predicament continued in the opener against the Ravens where Beckham finished with three catches for 22 yards.
The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Cleveland for their Week 2 matchup against the Browns.
3. Repeat Performance – After ranking in the bottom half of the league in points per game, rushing yards and total yards, the Bengals defense looked revitalized and much improved against the Chargers. Germaine Pratt was all over the field making a team-high 12 tackles and William Jackson III recorded two pass defenses, which was one shy of his 2019 total. Josh Bynes solidified the middle with a spectacular game as well registering eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a sack.
The big question is can the defense come out with the same speed and aggressiveness, especially with the Browns having a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb, who was second in the AFC in rushing last season, and Hunt, a Pro Bowler in 2017, together rushed for 132 yards against the Ravens.
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air nationally on NFL Network and is produced by FOX-TV. In Cincinnati, it also will be carried by WKRC-TV (CBS Ch. 12). Broadcasters are Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter) and Kristina Pink (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations, 700 WLW, WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7) Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).