5 Bold Predictions for Cincinnati's Week 4 Matchup Against Cleveland
I'll never know how they did it, and it amazes me that the game was really a story of two different teams—but it happened. Now that the Bengals are 2-1, their focus is on their game in the Dog Pound.
Cincinnati enters Cleveland this week on a new sort of high, and experts are buzzing about this game.
As a reminder, the Bengals did lose in Cleveland last season. The Browns are also fresh off an impressive victory themselves. Things will be tough this week, though, so what can we watch for in Cleveland?
Rex Burkhead Receives His First Playing Time
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
It's unclear at this point whether or not BenJarvus Green-Ellis is going to play this weekend as he struggles with an ankle injury—he remains questionable.
While I anticipate that this means more time for Giovani Bernard (more on that later), I wouldn't be surprised to also see Rex Burkhead get some playing time. Even if Green-Ellis is playing, you know his time will be limited. This means that Jay Gruden can really get a feel for how good Burkhead is.
Should Burkhead perform well against a good defense like the Cleveland Browns, he could see more time in the future. For the time being, I'll keep it modest—I'd say Burkhead carries the ball a handful of times and maybe makes a couple of catches.
Keep an eye on him by the goal line—he could be the guy that sneaks through the line and is wide open in the end zone.
Tyler Eifert Catches His First Career NFL Touchdown
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor
I know I made this prediction last week, but it turned out to be a slow week for the Bengals' rookie tight end. Tyler Eifert was noticeably absent last week against Green Bay, as he only caught one pass for under 10 yards.
This week will be different. Cleveland has a solid secondary, led by Joe Haden and Buster Skrine, so I don't expect a big week from Mohamed Sanu and A.J. Green. What that means is that the passing game should focus on the tight ends.
Could this mean a big game for Jermaine Gresham? Maybe. I consider Eifert the better catcher, though. In short-yard, third-down situations, he is the guy to go to. With that being the only way Cincinnati may move the ball this weekend, he should be a big factor.
Once down on the 10, he should be open across the middle of the field.
Bengals Defense Allows Less Than 200 Total Yards
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
For the first three weeks of the season, the Bengals defense has been what we expected them to be—tremendous. They've played solid games and even won the game against the Packers.
Now they will be facing the worst offense they've faced to date. Under Brian Hoyer, the Browns seem to be a new team, but I think he's going to have a very rude awakening on Sunday afternoon. He was great against Minnesota, but Cincinnati has a defense that's on an entirely new level.
Facing a front four consisting of Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and Michael Johnson, I can't imagine Hoyer having another game of stardom. Between what should be his poor performance and a running game now in shambles, the Browns shouldn't be able to move the ball.
Giovani Bernard Will Break 100 Rushing Yards
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Yes, Cleveland's defense has been one of the better defenses in the league over the last couple of seasons. What's more, up to this point in the current campaign, they've allowed an average of 84.3 yards on the ground per game.
That doesn't bode well for the Cincinnati running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis—who may or may not play—hasn't been doing well in the first place. However, partner-in-crime Giovani Bernard has been an amazing addition to the Bengals lineup.
Up to this point, he's scored three times and is averaging five yards per carry. Sure, he may run into the brick wall that is D'Qwell Jackson, but I still anticipate him having the biggest game of his career. My logic is that Andy Dalton is likely to have trouble, so Bernard will be picking up the slack.
Not only will he score 100 yards, but he will also be Cincinnati's MVP for the game.
Bengals Win 14-13
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati's offense looked great at times last week. There were points against Green Bay that actually made the Bengals look like one of the league's better offenses.
I know better. Green-Ellis is struggling and Andy Dalton is only going to do so much for this team—which is a shame to say, considering I'm a huge fan of the guy. The fact is that this offense is likely to have trouble moving the ball against a defense that ranks sixth overall.
Unfortunately for the Browns, they'll be facing a defense of equal, if not better, talent. This should be a very low-scoring game, and I expect the tight ends to have a huge impact. Watch for the Bengals to grind it out late in the game to sneak away with the win.