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Five Things To Watch: Bengals vs. Browns

DE Trey Hendrickson during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Wednesday, December 20, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
DE Trey Hendrickson during practice at the Kettering Health Practice Fields on Wednesday, December 20, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Bengals will host the Cleveland Browns at Paycor Stadium in the regular season finale on Sunday. The game airs at 1 p.m. on CBS. Here are five things to watch:

1. Hendrickson Shoots For Sack Title

Trey Hendrickson enters Week 18 with a career-high 17 sacks, tied for the league lead with Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt. While Watt and the Steelers play Saturday to give Hendrickson a target, other premier pass rushers like Jacksonville's Josh Allen (16.5 sacks), L.A. Chargers' Khalil Mack (16) and Minnesota's Danielle Hunter (15.5) take the field on Sunday all vying for the NFL sack title.

Should Hendrickson come out of the weekend on top, he would be the first Bengals player to lead the NFL in sacks since the league began keeping track of the stat in 1982. He also stands at second place on Cincinnati's single-season sack chart, trailing only Coy Bacon's 22 in 1976.

As it relates to Sunday's matchup, Hendrickson wreaking havoc in the backfield is a recipe for Bengals success. The team is 3-0 this season, and 6-1 since he arrived in Cincinnati in 2021, when he records two or more sacks. The Browns are 5-0 on the year when holding opponents to one or fewer sacks, and 6-5 when they allow more than one.

2. Browning Faces Top-Ranked Browns Defense

Jake Browning and company will take on a Cleveland defense that leads the NFL this season in total yards allowed per game (266.6) and passing yards allowed per game (165.9). The Browns have yielded 300 passing yards just once all year, and are holding opponents to a league-low 56.4 completion percentage.

Browning looks to close out the season with another notable stat line after taking over the Bengals' starting quarterback role in late November. Since his first start in Week 12, he leads the NFL in passing yards (1,712) and is second in yards per attempt (8.4). In Cincinnati's three wins with Browning under center, he has averaged 317.7 passing yards with a 76.7 completion percentage.

3. Chasing History

Ja'Marr Chase enters the season finale within striking distance of a few notable statistics. He has a career-high 96 catches on the season, and four more would make him the third player in team history to reach 100. He also comes in with 29 receiving touchdowns, and one on Sunday would make him the fourth player in NFL history to record 3,500+ receiving yards and 30+ touchdowns in his first three career seasons. The three currently on that list are Odell Beckham Jr., Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.

Chase also has 3,698 receiving yards in his career, 135 shy of A.J. Green (3,833) for the most by a Bengals player in their first three seasons.

4. Rookies Aim to Build Momentum

Each of Cincinnati's eight draft picks from last April have found substantial roles this season, and Sunday will offer a final look at game action ahead of a critical offseason. The young Bengals have notably improved in recent weeks, including first-round edge rusher Myles Murphy, who has 11 tackles and two sacks over the past six games.

On the back end of the defense, safety Jordan Battle and cornerback DJ Turner II have played starting roles and emerged as foundational pieces for the future. Offensively, Chase Brown has showcased his explosiveness with four plays of 15+ yards, and sixth-rounder Andrei Iosivas has 10 catches and two touchdowns.

On special teams, five of Brad Robbins' 19 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line have come in the past three games. He also is averaging 46.7 yards per punt and has zero touchbacks in that span.

5. Jungle Jam

Sunday marks the final game this season at Paycor Stadium, which once again has provided the Bengals one of the NFL's top home field advantages. Each home game this season has featured an attendance figure of over 65,000, and three games — Week 6 vs. Seattle, Week 9 vs. Buffalo and Week 10 vs. Houston — rank in the top five for largest home crowds in team history.

Cincinnati is 5-3 at home on the year, and 15-4 in its last 19 contests at Paycor Stadium dating back to Week 16 of 2021.

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