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 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).
The game also will air nationally on Westwood One Radio, with broadcasters Dan Miller (play-by-play) and Tony Boselli (analyst).
Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to Cleveland to take on the division-rival Browns on Thursday Night Football. Cincinnati will look to avoid dropping to 0-2, after beginning its season with a loss to the L.A. Chargers at home on Sunday.
Cincinnati fell to the Chargers in nail-biting fashion in Week 1, as a potential game-tying 31-yard FG by the Bengals sailed wide right with two seconds left. That overshadowed a mostly solid debut by Burrow, who after an up-and-down first half helped Cincinnati's offense find its footing late.
But Cincinnati's chances were thwarted by two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter. HB Joe Mixon fumbled on Cincinnati's own 25-yard line, leading to a Chargers go-ahead FG with 8:56 remaining. It was Mixon's first fumble since the 2017 season finale, a span that stretched 541 rushing attempts. The Bengals responded with a furious offensive drive, but that ended with a Burrow INT at L.A.'s 23-yard line.
Down three with 3:08 remaining and no time outs, Burrow led Cincinnati on a 14-play, 84 yard drive that was seemingly capped with seven seconds left by an apparent three-yard TD pass to WR A.J. Green, who has playing his first game since Dec. 2018. But the play was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty on Green, and Cincinnati was forced to settle for the ill-fated FG attempt.
Despite the disappointing ending, there were plenty of positives to glean from Sunday's opener. Most notable among those was the performance of Burrow, who was praised after the game by several of his offensive teammates.
On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati's defense showed marked improvement from a unit that last year ranked 25th in the NFL in points allowed. The defense, which features six new starters this season, held the Chargers to just 16 points on Sunday, which tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL in Week 1. It also made two critical fourth-down stops, and allowed just one TD on three Chargers trips to the red zone.
This week's matchup marks the first between Burrow and Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who were both Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall draft selections. The game is also likely to be a noteworthy milestone for sports in the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is expected to be the first major sporting event in Ohio with fans in attendance (albeit in limited capacity) in roughly six months.
Cleveland enters the game 0-1, after falling to Baltimore, 38-6, in its opener.
The series: The Bengals lead 51-42 in the "Battle of Ohio" series and have won nine of the last 13 games. Home field has been a factor over the series, as the Bengals lead 31-16 at home but trail 20-26 as the road club.
Cincinnati has played more games against Cleveland (93) than any foe except Pittsburgh. The Bengals have 101 all-time games against the Steelers.
The two teams split their divisional series last season. The teams played twice in December, with the Browns winning Game 13 at Cleveland, 27-19, and the Bengals winning the season finale, 33-23, at Cincinnati.
More series notes:
- The Browns swept the Bengals in 2018. It was Cleveland's first season sweep over the Bengals since 2002.
- Cleveland's win in Game 11 of 2018 snapped a seven-game Bengals winning streak against the Browns. That streak, the Bengals' longest in the series, began with the second meeting of 2014. The Bengals' previous longest streak had been a five-game run from Game 2 of 2004 through Game 2 of '06.
- The Browns' longest win streak over Cincinnati also 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 27-15, including 12-9 as the visiting team and 15-6 as the home team.
Bengals on Thursday: The Bengals have played 14 times previously on Thursday, posting a 8-6 record. Cincinnati has a 5-2 record on TNF at home, but just a 3-4 mark on the road. This is the first TNF game the Bengals have played under head coach Zac Taylor. One of the Thursday games in 2010, was played on Thanksgiving.
Bengals seek to regain biggest 'Battle' margin: With its three victories in the last four meetings with Cincinnati, Cleveland has whittled the Bengals' largest lead of 11 games in the team's all-time series down to nine games. The Bengals' 11-game lead after the 2017 season set the benchmark for the biggest lead held by either side in the "Battle of Ohio" series.
The series began in 1970 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 50-36 since that Cleveland high-water mark. The Browns have not led the series since the end of 2005, when they were 33-32.
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 a 14-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 2024, at the earliest. The Browns could not lead again until after the second game of '24.
Bengals-Browns connections: Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan is the father of Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. Bill Callahan was also head coach at the University of Nebraska when Bengals head coach Zac Taylor played quarterback there ... Bengals QB Joe Burrow is from Athens, Ohio (Athens High School), and also played at Ohio State University from 2015-17 ... Bengals S Vonn Bell, C Billy Price, G Michael Jordan, and Browns CB Denzel Ward all played at Ohio State University ... Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt was quarterbacks coach for the Bengals from 2018-19 ... Browns RB Kareem Hunt played at the University of Toledo ... Browns DE Trevon Young played at the University of Louisville ... Bengals TE Mason Schreck (practice squad) is from Medina, Ohio (Medina High School) ... Bengals senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner coached at Ohio State University from 1975-76 ... Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason played (2004-06) and coached ('13) for the Browns ... Bengals defensive quality control coach Jordan Kovacs is from Curtice, Ohio (Clay High School) ... Browns strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus coached at the University of Louisville from 1998-99 ... Browns DT Andrew Billings (Reserve/Opt Out) was originally a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in 2016, and was with the team through '19.
Burrow looks to buck first-pick trends: Prior to this season, 23 of the 24 QBs selected No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era went on to start at least one game as a rookie. The only exception, ironically, was Cincinnati's No. 1 overall pick in 2003, QB Carson Palmer. As rookies, those 24 QBs went on to finish their rookie seasons a combined 83-171-1, good for a .327 win percentage, or about a 5-11 rate for a full season.
The record for most wins by a rookie QB selected No. 1 overall is 11, by Indianapolis' Andrew Luck in 2012. Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Arizona QB Kyler Murray, went 5-10-1 as a rookie starter. The year before, Cleveland's Baker Mayfield went 6-7.