There were very few positives for Cincinnati in its 31-point drubbing at the hands of Baltimore on Monday night.
The Bengals were outplayed in nearly every facet of the game while suffering their worst opening-game loss ever.
The good news is that the loss didn’t affect the Bengals’ BCS chances any and they get a chance to get better this week against a Cleveland team that looked even worse in its opener than did Cincinnati.
But the Browns will not lie down and just allow Cincinnati to roll to an easy win. The “Battle of Ohio” is always hotly contested, and the Bengals will have to step up their game if they are to pull out the win.
Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game for the Bengals.
Arguably the most disappointing thing about Monday’s blowout loss was how badly the Bengals defense played against the pass.
Joe Flacco ripped the secondary apart, and other than Geno Atkins, the Bengals applied little pressure.
The good news is that Brandon Weeden is not Joe Flacco and the Browns offense is not remotely in the Ravens league. The Bengals may also get pass-rushing specialist Carlos Dunlap back from injury. That will certainly help.
There is every reason to believe that Cleveland will send a healthy dose of running back Trent Richardson at the Bengals. But if Cincinnati can neutralize Weeden, the Browns will be a one-dimensional—and very beatable—team.
The Ravens made it clear that A.J. Green was not going to beat them and they were right.
The budding superstar caught just five passes for 70 yards and was largely a non-factor in the game.
That will have to change on Sunday.
Quarterback Andy Dalton, who played very well in the first half on Monday, will make a point to target Green early and often. If Cincinnati is going to win, it will need Green to be more involved.
Of course, Cleveland will have the same game plan as Baltimore when it comes to slowing down Green. That means the Bengals’ other receivers—the emerging Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns—must have solid games in order to take the pressure of their superstar.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was largely productive in his first game with the Bengals, getting 91 yards on 18 carries and a score.
Green-Ellis is not a take-over-the-game kind of back, but he is the kind of player that can carry the load and wear down a defense. He never fumbles, always gets positive yards and is a superior blocker.
If the Bengals get the lead, expect an heavy dose of the “Law Firm.”
Would Monday’s game have turned out better had the Bengals gotten off to a better start? After all, they only trailed by four in the third quarter before the Ravens blew open the game.
Cincinnati teams have traditionally started slowly in big games and Monday was no exception. Nerves or lack of execution forced the Bengals to play from behind all night and you never got the feeling that they were truly in the game.
The Bengals need a quick start on Sunday against a Browns team that should have, by all rights, beaten Philadelphia.
If Cleveland hangs around, they have a chance to win the game.