3 Things To Watch – Cleveland

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The race is on.

With only six weeks left in the regular season there are five AFC teams (Bengals, Ravens, Dolphins, Colts, Titans) with a 5-5 record fighting for the final playoff spot. The Bengals have wins over the Ravens, Dolphins and Colts, but lose the tiebreaker to Baltimore because of its divisional record.

That makes Sunday's "Battle of Ohio" rivalry game against the Cleveland Browns carry even more significance. 

Fans may purchase tickets through the Bengals Ticket Hotline at (513) 621-8383, online at Bengals.com or by visiting the Paul Brown Stadium ticket office. 

Those who purchase individual game tickets on Bengals.com or the Bengals app will not be subject to additional processing fees when they choose mobile tickets as the delivery option.

Here are three things to watch:

1. All Eyes On Hue – Hue Jackson, the former Browns head coach, is one of the Bengals' most valuable resources for this game. 

"I think Hue understands their personnel," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. "He understands part of the way, particularly defensively, how they were putting the plan together. His involvement that way is that he can be an asset to us in some ways."

There is a lot of intrigue with the Browns this season led by three young stars: quarterback Baker Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward, and running back Nick Chubb. Those three have won seven Rookie of the Week awards with Mayfield winning it three times and Ward and Chubb each taking home the honor twice.

Jackson worked will all three players since rookie minicamp. The big question will be how much Jackson's understanding and knowledge will impact how the Bengals attack the Browns on both sides of the football.

2. Make Big Plays On Defense – In two games under interim head coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, Mayfield has completed 74 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns, one interception, two sacks, one fumble, and a quarterback rating of 118.5. 

Mayfield has had plenty of help as well with Chubb elevating his play into one of the best in the NFL. Since the trade of Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville, Chubb has accumulated 406 rushing yards, 48 receiving and four touchdowns.

What will spark the Bengals' defense, then, will be big plays: interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, tackles for loss, etc. The good news: Mayfield has been sacked 22 times in eight games this year. Hitting home on Mayfield and making him uncomfortable should result in the kind of game-shifting plays the Bengals' defense will need.

3. Stay on schedule on offense – In last week's game against Baltimore, the offense was on the field for 21 minutes and 51 seconds, marking the fifth straight game where the Bengals lost the time of possession battle.

With the way the Bengals' offense is designed, it is built on explosive plays and efficiency. To alleviate the time of possession issues, needing to win on third down is a non-starter for the Bengals' offense. In last week's game at Baltimore, the Bengals were 6 of 14 (42.8 percent) on third down, slightly above the league average of 39.7 percent. 

Picking up quick first downs, or at least generating some third-and-short downs, can mitigate that strength of Cleveland's defense.

Game Coverage

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Steve Tasker (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Canned Food Drive this Sunday: The Bengals and the Freestore Foodbank are teaming up for the 32nd Annual Canned Food Drive. Canned foods and cash donations will be collected at Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday prior to the Bengals game against the Browns. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.

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