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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cody Core (16) carries the ball during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 in Cincinnati. (NFL Photos via AP)

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 Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (analyst).

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).

Setting the scene: The Cincinnati Bengals this week travel to Cleveland to play the Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. This “Battle of Ohio” — the second of two meetings between the teams this year — is the first of two consecutive Bengals road games to close out the 2018 season.

Last week, the 6-8 Bengals ended a five-game losing streak and won their 2018 home finale 30-16 over the Oakland Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium. In the win over Oakland, Cincinnati played well in all three phases. On offense, the Bengals scored on four consecutive first-half drives en route to a 20-7 halftime lead. HB Joe Mixon led the way by totaling a season-high 129 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 27 carries (4.8-yard average). WR Tyler Boyd caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, and he passed 1000 yards receiving on the season (he now has 1028). The win was the first for QB Jeff Driskel, who made his third start in place injured Andy Dalton, who is out for the season with a thumb injury.

The Bengals’ defense held the Raiders to just 297 total net yards, including just 68 yards rushing. It also held Oakland to just three total third-down conversions, a season low for Cincinnati opponents, and recorded two fumble recoveries for the first time this season. DT Geno Atkins and DE Sam Hubbard combined for five sacks (Atkins had three, and Hubbard had two).

On special teams, K Randy Bullock converted all three of his field goal attempts, and WR Alex Erickson had four kickoff returns for 168 yards. Erickson’s longest return of 77 yards came late in the fourth quarter, after Oakland had pulled to within a touchdown, 23-16. The Bengals scored two plays later on a 15-yard run by Mixon with four minutes left for the game’s final score.

Despite the victory, it was determined later in the day that the Bengals officially were eliminated from the playoffs. It marks the third straight year that Cincinnati will miss the playoffs after qualifying for the postseason for five straight years from 2011-15. Still, winning their last home game of the season meant a lot to Bengals players, who wish to end the season on a high note.

At 6-7-1, Cleveland currently is a half-game ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC North Division standings. The Browns have won four of their last five games, including two straight. They defeated the Bengals 35-20 in Game 11 at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 25. 

A win over the Browns this week will give the Bengals an opportunity in the season finale to avoid a losing season and improve upon their 2017 record of 7-9. The Bengals travel to Pittsburgh next week to play their final game against Steelers at Heinz Field. The Steelers currently are 8-5-1, a half game ahead of the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

The series: The Bengals lead 50-40 in the “Battle of Ohio” series and have won eight of the last 10 games. Home field has been a factor over the length of the series, as the Bengals lead 30-16 at home but trail 20-24 as the road club. 

The Bengals have won 21 of the last 28 meetings and lead 22-9 in games during the tenure of Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis, including 10-5 at Cleveland and 12-4 at Cincinnati.

  • The Bengals have played more games against the Browns (90) than any foe except Pittsburgh. The Bengals have 98 all-time games against the Steelers.
  • Cleveland’s 35-20 win over Cincinnati in the teams’ first meeting this season on Nov. 25 snapped 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 26-13, including 12-7 as the visiting team and 14-6 as the home team.

Bengals-Browns connections: Bengals special assistant to the head coach Hue Jackson was head coach of the Browns from 2016 until Oct. 29, 2018 ... Browns OL Kevin Zeitler entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice (27th overall) of the Bengals in 2012, and was with the team through the ’16 season ... Browns quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2003-17, and served as offensive coordinator in ’16 and ’17... Bengals DE Sam Hubbard, C Billy Price, DT Adolphus Washington (Reserve/Injured) and LB Chris Worley (practice squad) all played at Ohio State University. Worley is from Cleveland (Glenville High School), and Price is from Austintown, Ohio. ... Browns DB Denzel Ward also played at Ohio State University ... Browns DE Chris Smith was with the Bengals in 2017 ... Bengals TE Matt Lengel was with the Browns briefly in 2017 ... Browns TE Orson Charles (Reserve/Injured) was a fourth-round draft choice (116th overall) of the Bengals in 2012, and was with the team through the ’13 season ... Bengals TE Mason Schreck (Reserve/Injured) is from Medina, Ohio (Medina High School) ... Bengals QB Connor Cook (practice squad) is from Hinckley, Ohio (Walsh Jesuit High School) ... Browns defensive line coach Clyde Simmons played for the Bengals in 1998 ... 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 from 1995-98, and Miami (Ohio) University from ’99-2000. ... Browns DB T.J. Carrie played at Ohio University ... Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie was on the Bengals’ coaching staff 1997-98. Wylie also coached at Ohio University from 1985-87 and the University of Cincinnati in 1996. ... Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney was on the Browns’ coaching staff from 1994-95 ... Browns offensive quality control coach Brian Braswell was on the Bengals’ coaching staff from 2014-15 ... Browns special teams coordinator Amos Jones coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1999-2002 ... Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton coached at Ohio State University from 1985-86.

Bengals’ O excels in red zone: The Bengals’ offense this season has scored TDs on 30 of its 42 trips to the red zone, good for a 71.4 percentage that ranks third in the NFL. Of Cincinnati’s 30 red-zone TDs, 18 have come by pass and 12 have come via the running game. Five of the passes have gone to WR Tyler Boyd, four have gone to WR John Ross, four have gone to WR A.J. Green, and two have gone to TE C.J. Uzomah. TE Tyler Eifert, TE Matt Lengel and HB Joe Mixon each have one TD reception apiece. Mixon also has eight of Cincinnati’s 12 rushing TDs in the red zone, while HB Giovani Bernard has three and QB Jeff Driskel has one. The Bengals had six trips to the red zone last week vs. Oakland, and converted three TDs and three FGs.

Entering their Week 5 matchup with Miami, Cincinnati had come away with points on an NFL-best 34 consecutive trips to the red zone (25 TDs, nine FGs) dating back to Game 9 of 2017. But an INT on their first red-zone trip vs. Miami ended the streak, which was the team’s longest since 2005-06 (40 straight).

Boyd hits 1000 receiving yards: Bengals WR Tyler Boyd now has 1028 receiving yards this season, giving him the first 1000-yard season of his three-year career, the 27th 1000-yard season in Bengals history, and the first 1000-yard season by a player other than WR A.J. Green since 2009 (WR Chad Johnson, 1047). Boyd reached the mark in Game 14 vs. Oakland, but he left that game after the first half with a knee injury. It’s unclear whether or not that injury will cause him to miss time.

Green has six 1000-yard seasons, but he will not get his seventh this year after being placed on Reserve/Injured (toe) on Dec. 5. Boyd, Green, Johnson and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh are the only players to reach 1000 receiving yards during the tenure of head coach Marvin Lewis (2003-present).

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