The Bengals and Browns have 34 wins each in the Paul Brown Classic and the Bengals are 21-13 in Cincinnati but they come into this one trailing on the Bengals.com roundtable.
"The Browns have the edge because of where they are and they need this one because they still have a shot to win the division," says The Guru, a former top football executive for an NFL club. "And they're coming off a real big win in bad conditions. The Bengals are coming off a bad loss (in San Francisco) against a team that had no right beating them."
"I'm done trying to figure out the Bengals," says The Chief, a personnel director not in the Bengals division. "How do they have Carson Palmer and Ocho Cinco and not score touchdowns? Cleveland has scored points, so you give them the edge. But I wouldn't be surprised at all with an upset here. The Browns give up points, the Bengals are at home, still have a lot of offensive talent, and it's the big in-state rivalry and everyone in the building knows how much Mike (Brown) wants to beat the namesakes."
Keep this in mind, too. The Bengals (5-9) beat one team when it had a winning record. Of the teams the Browns (9-5) have beaten, only one currently has a winning record (Seattle) and the foes have a combined record of 43-83.
If The Chief admits he can't figure out the Bengals, he also says he can't understand how the Browns are 9-5. They are 32nd in defense, they have no time of possession (less than 29 minutes), they don't have a remarkable red-zone defense (they are 25th in touchdown percentage) and their turnover differential is even.
Like the Bengals, they struggle getting sacks (Cleveland is 30th in the NFL in sacks per pass, Cincy 29th), while both are great protecting the passer (Cincy is second, Cleveland fifth in allowing sacks per pass).
"They win the close ones," he says of a team with an average margin victory of seven.
They also score with 368 points to the Bengals' 323.
WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
RT Willie Anderson and/or Stacy Andrews vs. LE Shaun Smith
Keep an eye on Anderson if he plays for the first time since Oct. 21. He feels he's got to show the team he's got something left for next year. The last time Anderson played, Watson had the best game of his career with 130 yards.
"You have to against Cleveland because they aren't going to let you throw it over their heads."
Even before the six-pack game, Palmer had put up good numbers against the Browns with a 94.2 passer rating while completing 66 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns in seven games.
Jackson has played well against the run lately, forcing a fumble against the Rams two weeks ago and piling up 12 tackles against the Niners last week. But he was listed as questionable Friday after apparently injuring his calf in practice Thursday and Ndukwe, the seventh-rounder, could see a lot of play in the box.
Williams spoke earlier this week about how creative the Browns are getting Winslow the ball by running him in motion out of different formations and that may be taxing on a young player. Winslow is receiverish enough that in the last game he blew past cornerback Johnathan Joseph for a 25-yard touchdown when the blitz didn't get there. The Bengals have tape on how to contain him. Winslow has caught just 97 yards in the last three games.
"Anderson is deceptively mobile in the pocket," The Guru says. "And he's got good vision and presence because he is so tall. Plus, he's got a heck of an arm. He can cut it loose."
"It's different, but I've tackled him," Busing said. "That's what you have to do against him. He's very strong, so you have to make sure that you wrap him up. We can't arm-tackle him. He moves pretty well side to side, but he's dangerous when he makes that first cut. He's explosive."
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