Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: CBS broadcast with Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (analyst). The game will air in the Bengals home market on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Channel 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Channel 27) in Lexington, Ky.
Radio: Coverage on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals haven't yet improved in the standings, but they are showing clear signs of progress on the field, and they look to turn the corner on Sunday in the 88th "Battle of Ohio" against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. It's the first matchup this season between the AFC North rivals, and with both teams standing at 0-3, rarely in the lengthy series have the two squads needed a win as badly as they do this week.
Cincinnati has won 19 of its last 25 meetings with Cleveland, and the Bengals currently are winners of five straight games in the series. Should they extend that to six consecutive victories, the Bengals will set a new mark for their longest win streak ever against the Browns.
Fans of AFC North teams, however, know all too well that division wins are hard to come by. The last time Cincinnati and Cleveland met in similar circumstances was the first meeting of 2008, when both clubs were 0-3 going into a late September contest at Paul Brown Stadium. After that contest, the Browns left town with a 20-12 win. As the visiting team in this week's game, the Bengals likewise hope to fly out of Cleveland this Sunday evening with their first victory of 2017.
Last week, Cincinnati suffered an anguished 27-24 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Bengals' offense, which had not scored a touchdown in either of the first two games, scored TDs on two of its first three possessions. Behind those scores and an interception returned for a touchdown by CB William Jackson, the Bengals jumped out to a 21-7 lead on the defending NFC North Champions and controlled that advantage for most of the game. In the first half, Cincinnati outgained Green Bay in net yards, 192-78, while winning on third downs on both sides of the line of scrimmage, converting four of seven while holding the Packers to two of seven.
In the second half, however, the Packers flipped the third downs, converting five of eight and holding the Bengals to zero of five. Behind the direction of QB Aaron Rodgers, a two-time NFL MVP with a Super Bowl victory and six Pro Bowls to his credit, Green Bay rallied down the stretch. No stranger to come-from-behind victories or game-winning drives, Rodgers directed a 12-play, 71-yard TD drive with 17 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Then, after the Bengals' offense stalled with a three-and-out on the opening drive of OT, Rodgers connected with WR Geronimo Allison on third-and-10 for a 72-yard pass to the Bengals' seven-yard line, and two plays later, the Packers won on a 27-yard FG.
Despite the loss, several Bengals had noteworthy individual performances. On offense, QB Andy Dalton completed 21 of 27 passes for 212 yards, two TDs and no INTs (124.1 passer rating), and WR A.J. Green caught 10 passes for 111 yards and a TD. On defense, in addition to Jackson's pick-six, rookie LB Carl Lawson recorded 2.5 sacks, and he even had another sack erased due to a defensive penalty.
"There were a lot of positives (in the Packers game), and we moved forward in a lot of ways," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "I thought the offensive staff did a good job and had a good plan. In the second half, we weren't very good on third downs. We had four possessions in the second half — two were four plays and a punt, and on the other two we drove for opportunities for field goals (one made, and one missed). That means you're stalling on third downs. What proved to be the difference offensively is not converting third downs and not getting touchdowns on the board in the second half.
"Defensively, we have to be more consistent. We can't give up the chunk plays like we did (in the Packers game), giving opportunities to the quarterback. We have to play tight coverage and stay consistent in the rush. We did a good job in the pass rush most of the day, but we have to be consistent throughout the entire game, as pass rush and pass coverage always work together."
In preparing this week for Sunday's game against the Browns, the Bengals will focus on continuing their progress on offense, particularly scoring touchdowns, while also concentrating on sustaining what otherwise would be solid defensive efforts. Their defense will be boosted this week with the return of LB Vontaze Burfict, who missed the first three games due to a league suspension. Burfict, a sixth-year player, has been a cornerstone of the Bengals' defense since joining the team as a college free agent in 2012.
"I have to get our guys in position to make plays throughout the game — not just the first quarter or first half, but throughout the game," Lewis said. "We have to a better job of finishing. We're not being given any breaks; we have to make our own breaks. We have to make them all the time, for the entire 60 minutes."
The series: The Bengals lead 48-39 in the "Battle of Ohio" series and have won the last five games. Home field has been a factor over the length of the series, as the Bengals lead 29-15 at home but trail 19-24 as the road club.
The Bengals have won 19 of the last 25 meetings and lead 20-8 in games during the tenure of Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis, including 9-5 on the road.
The Bengals have played more games against the Browns (87) than against any foe except Pittsburgh. The Bengals have 95 all-time games against the Steelers.
More series notes:
● The Bengals this week could set a new longest win streak against the Browns. The current five-game win streak, which began the second meeting of 2014, ties for the longest thus far. The first five-game win streak was posted from Game 2 of 2004 through Game 2 of '06.
● The Browns' longest win streak over Cincinnati has been seven games, extending from Game 2 of the 1992 season through Game 2 of '95.
● Since the Browns' rebirth in 1999, the Bengals lead 23-12, including 11-7 as the road team.
Team bests from the series:
Bengals — MOST POINTS: 58, in a 58-48 victory at Paul Brown Stadium in 2004. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 34, in a 37-3 win at Cleveland last season. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0 (four times), most recently in a 30-0 win in 2014 at Cleveland.
Browns — MOST POINTS: 51, in a 51-45 win at Cleveland in 2007. LARGEST VICTORY MARGIN: 34, in a 34-0 victory at Cincinnati in 1987. FEWEST POINTS ALLOWED: 0 (twice), most recently in an 18-0 win at Cleveland in 2001.
Bengals seek to grow biggest 'Battle' margin: With their two victories against Cleveland in 2016, the Bengals extended to nine their benchmark for the biggest lead held by either side in the "Battle of Ohio" series, which began in 1970. Cincinnati's current lead is 48-39, and this week the Bengals will try to extend their series margin to 10 games.
The series began with the Browns winning six of the first seven, and their five-game margin at 6-1, after the first meeting of 1973, stands as their largest lead. The Bengals lead 47-33 since that Cleveland high-water mark. The Browns have not led the series since the end of 2005, when they held a 33-32 edge.
Since surrendering that 33-32 lead by giving up a sweep in the 2006 meetings, the Browns have twice pulled into ties — at 34-34 after game one of '07 and at 35-35 after game one of '08. But the Browns have now endured nearly an 11-year stretch without a lead in the series. Barring possible additions to the series in postseason play, the Bengals cannot surrender their series lead until after the first game of 2021, at the earliest. The Browns could not lead again until after the second game of '21.
More Bengals-Browns facts: The first-ever Bengals-Browns meeting of any kind was Aug. 29, 1970. On that Saturday, the Browns were visitors for the second preseason game of Riverfront Stadium's debut year. The Bengals won 31-24, moving to 2-0 in preseason in their new home.
● The Bengals were 17-10 against the Browns at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field.
● The Browns were 17-8 against the Bengals at the old Cleveland Stadium, but the Bengals lead 11-7 at FirstEnergy Stadium (formerly Cleveland Browns Stadium).
● The Bengals and Browns never played at Nippert Stadium, as Nippert was the Bengals' American Football League home.
● The Bengals have posted 12 season sweeps, and the Browns have posted eight. The teams have split 23 times. In 1982, they played only once, with the scheduled contest at Cleveland cancelled due to a players' strike.
● The first Bengals-Browns regular-season game at Cincinnati on Nov. 15, 1970 drew the first home crowd of 60,000 in Bengals history (60,007 at Riverfront Stadium). The Bengals won 14-10 behind a 110-yard rushing effort from QB Virgil Carter, the only 100-yarder by a QB in Bengals history.
● The largest Bengals home crowd for a Browns game has been 66,072, on Sept. 17, 2006 at Paul Brown Stadium. That ranks as the fifth-largest crowd in Bengals history.
● The Browns drew the largest Bengals crowd in the Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field era — 60,284 for a 27-24 Browns win on Oct. 17, 1971.
● The Bengals and Browns met three times in preseason at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, from 1972-74. All were Sunday afternoon games, and the Browns won two of the three.
Coaches in Battle of Ohio: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who is 20-8 overall against Cleveland, has the most total wins and best winning percentage (.714) of any Bengals head coach in the series. Lewis also has coached the most games (28) against Cleveland. Sam Wyche is second in all three categories, with 10 wins, a .625 winning percentage (10-6) and 16 games.
Bill Belichick has been the top Browns coach in the series, having posted an 8-2 mark against the Bengals during his 1991-95 tenure.
Lewis is the only Bengals head coach whose first Cincinnati victory came against Cleveland. Lewis took over as head coach in 2003, and his first win was a 21-14 decision at Cleveland on Sept. 28 of that year. The Bengals entered that game at 0-3, but went on to finish 8-8. The six-game improvement, after a 2-14 season in 2002, was the largest in the NFL for '03.
Forrest Gregg is the only head coach to pilot both teams in the Battle of Ohio. Gregg was 1-5 as Browns coach against the Bengals from 1975-77, and he was 3-4 as Bengals coach against the Browns from '80-83.
Here's a full roundup of Bengals' head coaches, in chronological order, and their records in the Battle of Ohio: Paul Brown (5-7), Bill "Tiger" Johnson (3-2), Homer Rice (2-1), Forrest Gregg (3-4), Sam Wyche (10-6), Dave Shula (1-7), Bruce Coslet (2-1), Dick LeBeau (2-3), Marvin Lewis (20-8).
With their win in the first meeting of 2016 against the Browns and head coach Hue Jackson, the Bengals ran their record to 10-6 against Browns head coaches directing their first game in the series. Browns head coaches who won their first game have been Blanton Collier (1970), Nick Skorich ('71), Sam Rutigliano ('78), Bill Belichick ('91), Rob Chudzinski (2013) and Mike Pettine (2014). On the losing end for Cleveland have been Forrest Gregg (1975), Marty Schottenheimer ('84), Bud Carson ('89), Jim Shofner ('90), Chris Palmer ('99), Butch Davis (2001), Romeo Crennel ('05), Eric Mangini ('09), Pat Shurmur ('11) and Jackson.
Bengals coaches show a 7-2 record the first time out against Cleveland. The last five have won. The seven winners have been Bill Johnson (1976), Homer Rice ('78), Sam Wyche ('84), Dave Shula ('92), Bruce Coslet ('99), Dick LeBeau (2000) and Marvin Lewis ('03). Losing in the first try vs. Cleveland were Paul Brown (1970) and Forrest Gregg ('80).
Records vs. Browns: The two highest-scoring games in Bengals history have each been against the Browns, both coming during Marvin Lewis' tenure as head coach. On Nov. 28, 2004 at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals won 58-48, and the 106 total points is not only a Bengals record, it is the second-most in NFL history, behind only 113 from Washington's 72-41 win over the N.Y. Giants in 1966. And on Sept. 16, 2007, the Bengals and Browns combined for 96 points at Cleveland in a 51-45 Browns win.
More on Bengals records against the Browns:
● In their 30-0 win over the Browns in Cleveland in 2014, the Bengals allowed only five first downs, fewest by an opponent in Bengals history.
● The 58-48 Bengals win on Nov. 28, 2004 is the only game in club history in which Cincinnati scored double figures in all four quarters (14-13-14-17 — 58).
● WR A.J. Green's 41-yard TD reception put the Bengals ahead to stay in the fourth quarter of the 2011 season opener at Cleveland, and at the time, it was the longest game-winning catch in NFL history by a rookie playing in his team's first game of the year. The previous long in this category was only 22 yards, and it had stood for more than 85 years, set by Jack Underwood of the Duluth Kelleys in 1924. Since Green's game winner, Kansas City rookie RB Kareem Hunt caught a 78-yard TD pass to put the Chiefs ahead for good early in the fourth quarter of their opener this season at New England.
● In the final Bengals game at Cinergy Field, on Dec. 12, 1999, Cincinnati limited the Browns to the fewest rushing yards ever by an opponent. Cleveland had only 11 net yards on 11 attempts.
● On Dec. 21, 1980 vs. Cleveland, DE Eddie Edwards set the Bengals record for sacks in a game with five. The mark stood unchallenged for 19 years, until DE Antwan Odom tied it on Sept. 20, 2009 at Green Bay.
● On Nov. 25, 2001 at Cleveland, T.J. Houshmandzadeh set the Bengals record for punt return yards in a game with 126. His 86-yarder in that game ranks tied for third-longest in club history.
● In the Sep. 16, 2007 shootout with the Browns noted above, QB Carson Palmer threw six TD passes, the most ever by a Bengals QB in a single game.
● On Nov. 17, 2013, the Bengals scored 31 points in the third quarter, a team record for most points in a quarter, en route to a 41-20 Cincinnati victory.
● On Oct 23, 2016 against Cleveland HB Jeremy Hill had the most rushing yards in club history without hitting double digits in carries, breaking a mark that had stood for 45 years. Hill went nine-for-168, averaging 18,7 yards per carry.
● The Bengals' 23-20 overtime victory at Cleveland on Oct. 4, 2009 stands as the longest Bengals game not to end in a tie. Only four seconds remained in the overtime period when K Shayne Graham booted a 31-yard field goal to break a 20-all deadlock. Elapsed scoreboard clock time for the game was 74:56. The only 75-minute games in Bengals history have been three ties, in 2008 vs. Philadelphia, in '14 vs. Carolina and '16 vs. Washington in London.
Rolling out the 'last times': For the Bengals, their 559-yard offensive game vs. Cleveland on Oct. 23 of last season was:
● The highest yardage output in 26 years, since 582 in an overtime win at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 7, 1990.
● The highest output in a regulation-time game since Dec. 17, 1989, when the total was 584 vs. Houston.
● The game with the most rushing yards (271) in more than 30 years, since the team had 274 on Dec. 8, 1985 vs. Dallas. It ranks No. 7 in franchise history.
● The tied-for-seventh highest offensive total in franchise history.
● The first game in which the Bengals had a 300-yard passer (Andy Dalton 308), a 100-yard rusher (Jeremy Hill 168) and a 100-yard receiver (A.J. Green 169) in a regulation-time game since Sept. 16, 2007 at Cleveland. Cincinnati also did it on Oct. 12, 2014 vs. Carolina, but that was a tie that went five full quarters.
● The game with the most yards per rush (9.0) since Oct. 22, 2000, when the Bengals averaged 11.0 vs. Denver. That Denver game featured a club-record 407 rushing yards, including a club-record 278 by HB Corey Dillon, which was the NFL individual record at the time.
Individually vs. Browns: P Kevin Huber has faced the Browns more times than any player on the Bengals roster, having battled with Cleveland 16 times. In total, 15 current Bengals have been with the team for 10 Bengals-Browns matchups, including 13 players listed as starters.
● QB Andy Dalton: 12 games; 9-3 W-L record; 220-for-351 passing (62.7 percent) for 2494 yards (207.8) per game, with 20 TDs and 11 INTs (passer rating of 89.9).
● WR A.J. Green: 11 games; 52 receptions for 824 yards (15.8; 74.9 per game) with six TDs.
● HB Giovani Bernard: Six games; 70 rushes for 339 yards (4.8); 16 receptions for 133 yards (8.3).
● HB Jeremy Hill: Six games; 108 rushes for 632 yards (5.9) and five TDs; eight receptions for 65 yards.
● TE Tyler Eifert: Five games; 15 receptions for 163 yards (11.7), with five TDs.
● H-back Ryan Hewitt: Five games; Four receptions for 41 yards (10.3).
● TE Tyler Kroft: Three games; Two receptions for 20 yards (10.0).
● WR Tyler Boyd: Two games; Six receptions for 52 yards and two rushes for 40 yards.
● WR Brandon LaFell: Two games; Seven receptions for 105 yards (21.8), with one TD.
● QB AJ McCarron: Two games; Two-for-three passing (66.7 percent) for 19 yards, with no TDs or INTs.
● TE C.J. Uzomah: Two games; One reception for four yards.
● WR Cody Core: One game; One reception for eight yards.
● WR Alex Erickson: One game; One reception for 16 yards.
Runs for the Hill: In the first Bengals-Browns meeting of 2016 at Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals HB Jeremy Hill had the most rushing yards in club history without hitting double digits in carries, breaking a mark that had stood for 45 years. Hill went nine-for-168, averaging 18.7 yards per carry.
Previously, the most rushing yards by a Bengal with nine or fewer carries in a game had been 113 on eight carries, by RB Essex Johnson on Sept. 19, 1971, vs. Philadelphia.
Hill showed his excellent speed for a 230-pounder on a 74-yard TD run in the third quarter vs. Cleveland. It was the second-longest rush of his three-year career, behind only an 85-yarder vs. Denver in 2014. His 168 yards still stands as a career-high and as the most by a Bengal since 2009, when Cedric Benson had 189 vs. Chicago. Hill's 192 yards from scrimmage in that 2016 Cleveland game (including 24 receiving yards) was the Bengals' high last season.
Bengals-Browns connections: Browns head coach Hue Jackson was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2014-15, and he also coached for Cincinnati from '04-06 and from '12-13 ... Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney was on the Browns staff from 1994-95 ... Browns tight ends coach Greg Seamon spent 13 seasons (2003-15) with the Bengals, primarily as a scout. Seamon also coached at the University of Cincinnati (1995-98) and Miami (Ohio) University ('99-00) ... Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons played for the Bengals in 1998 ... Browns QB DeShone Kizer is from Toledo, Ohio (Central Catholic High School) ... Browns LB James Burgess Jr. played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals TE Mason Schreck (Reserve/Injured) is from Medina, Ohio (Medina High School) ... Browns CB Darius Hillary (practice squad) was with the Bengals briefly in 2016, and is the son of former Bengal Ira Hilary. He is also from Cincinnati (Sycamore High School) ... Bengals HB Cedric Peerman (Reserve/Injured) was briefly with the Browns in 2009 but did not play ... Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie coached at Ohio University (1985-87), the University of Cincinnati ('96) and with the Bengals ('97-98) ... Browns special teams quality control coach Stan Watson coached at Bowling Green State University from 2008-11, and at the University of Toledo from '12-13 ... Browns assistant defensive line coach Ken Delgado coached at the University of Louisville from 2008-09 ... Browns special teams assistant Shawn Mennenga coached at Western Kentucky University in 1997 ... Browns strength and conditioning coordinator Evan Marcus coached at the University of Louisville from 1998-99.