Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Cleveland Browns' Week 4 Action

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Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Cleveland Browns' Week 4 Action
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The Cleveland Browns return to action at FirstEnergy Stadium this Sunday, and it is time to dissect the best individual matchups to watch for in Week 4.

Riding high off an emotional victory in Minnesota, the Browns face their AFC North rival, the first-place Cincinnati Bengals.

Hometown hero Brian Hoyer receives a second straight start at quarterback and can add to his growing popularity by orchestrating another upset win.

There are several key head-to-head battles, but let's focus on three of the most intriguing.

 

Cleveland's Joe Haden (CB) vs. Cincinnati's A.J. Green (WR)

This is a respectful rivalry that goes all the way back to college. What fan of either of these teams doesn't enjoy the biannual battle between Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden and Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green?

Haden always seems to hold Green in check for most of a game, except for one huge play that turns the tide.

In his rookie season, Green rumbled off 41 and 51-yard receptions. 2012 had the duo match up only once because of Haden's suspension. In that October 14 encounter, the speedy Bengal burned the Browns for two touchdowns and a long gallop of 57 yards.

It's almost as if Green needs the Cleveland corner to elevate his performance. In the September 16 game where Haden was not present, Green averaged a pedestrian 8.3 yards per catch for a total of 58.

Can Haden break the streak and lock down Green for a four quarters like he did with Miami's Mike Wallace in the home opener? If that happens, then the Browns will have a chance of executing another unexpected victory.

 

Cleveland's D'Qwell Jackson (LB) vs. Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard (RB)

It would be easy to overlook rookie Giovani Bernard because of his small sample size of work and average-looking numbers.

Don't be fooled, though. This 2013 second-round pick out of North Carolina is a game-changer.

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He is what the Browns were hoping Dion Lewis would be for them. Bernard provides a lightning-fast change-of-pace back who can make an impact on minimal carries.

He is averaging 5.0 yards per handoff and broke through for a 17-yard sprint last week. He also has one receiving touchdown and a pair of rushing scores as well.

Cleveland's defensive captain D'Qwell Jackson will be called upon to smother Bernard on the ground and through the air.

Jackson leads a Browns group ranked seventh in the NFL against the run. He tops the team in total tackles with 27.0.

DQ's 10 tackles in Week 3 was a major factor in why Minnesota's Adrian Peterson didn't run wild, and the linebacker also forced a fumble on the legendary running back.

However, Cincinnati's offense is going to be far less predictable than the Vikings' obvious rushing strategy. 

BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains the Bengals' hard-nosed workhorse on the ground. This means that Jackson and company have to be ready at all times for two completely different styles of running.

Jackson's proved in this young season that he can be a dominant run defender, but can he adapt quickly enough when Bernard is utilized?

 

Cleveland's Josh Gordon (WR) vs. Cincinnati's Leon Hall (CB)

The Bengals like to mix up their secondary coverage, so Browns' top receiver Josh Gordon will get some harassment from Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Browns vs. Bengals past highlights
However, even after seven seasons in the league, Hall remains his club's main shutdown option.

Gordon roasted Cincinnati for 99 yards, with a long reception of 71 yards and a touchdown in October 2012.

He showcased his superhero-like athleticism in his first game back from suspension in Minnesota. No. 13 delivered an ankle-breaking double move to get open and score. He also shocked everyone in the stadium by scooting 22 yards in an end around.

A full week of taking reps from starting quarterback Hoyer gives Gordon even more ammunition to light up the opposition on Sunday. Could he be the Browns' answer to A.J. Green?

This is the matchup that favors Cleveland the most since none of Cincinnati's cornerbacks individually can handle his speed and physicality on a consistent basis.

To compensate, the Bengals will have no choice but to double-team the 6'3" receiver. That will naturally open up space for the likes of tight end Jordan Cameron and slot specialist Davone Bess.

 

Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and journalist.

Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81

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