Bengals Vs. Browns: 10 Things For Cincy Fans and Can Carson Palmer Play Better?
The Cincinnati Bengals will play their long time rival Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The game will be televised on CBS. The Bengals go in favored by 3.5 points.
Last year, the Bengals won both of the games against the Browns. In the first game at Cleveland, the Bengals won 23-20. In the second game at Cincinnati, the Bengals won 16-7.
The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-1 while the Browns are 0-3.
Here are ten things to watch for in the game.
1. Carson Palmer
The big story in Cincinnati is how badly Carson Palmer has looked so far this season. Here are his problems:
Accuracy - His completion percentage was barely over 50% against the Panthers. He was under 50% against the Ravens.
Decision-making - He threw two interceptions against the Panthers last week but it could have easily been four.
Arm strength - Against the Panthers, Palmer's throws were weak. He threw off his back foot a few times. Several passes were under thrown.
On the bright side, Joe Flacco had a nice game against the Browns last week. Maybe Palmer can do the same against an average secondary like the Browns.
2. Offensive Line
The offensive line for the Bengals has struggled.
Dennis Roland had a horrible game against the Panthers. He was getting manhandled in passing situations. Bobbie Williams whiffed on pass rushers and was getting pushed back. The others weren't much better. The right side of the line is weak. They favor that side in the running game.
On a positive note, the Browns will likely be without stud nose tackle Shaun Rogers. On top of that, they were unable to sack Joe Flacco in last week's game.
3. Play Calling
It seems as if the Bengals' attitude has been that their opponents can't stop them even if they know what is coming. Throughout the game against the Panthers, Palmer forced the ball to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Based on what we have seen so far, they are trying to get those two involved early.
When they get away from that, the offense moves much better. The screens to Jermaine Gresham worked. Jordan Shipley has hands of glue and gets open. On the last drive that led to the Cedric Benson touchdown pass, they tried two misdirection passes to Gresham and Benson. Those worked beautifully but one wonders why they aren't creative like that more often.
When the quarterback is struggling, the offensive coordinator should try go make life easier for him. Those plays run on the final drive are the kinds of plays they should be running more often. We'll see if that happens against the Browns.
The Bengals are winning with defense right now.
Carson Palmer had an ugly game against the Panthers. He thew two interceptions but could have thrown at least four. A one dimensional approach won't work because the Browns can stop the running game. Palmer will need to pass the ball and can't have a game like that against the Browns and expect to win.
5. Andre Smith
Andre Smith was inactive for the game against the Panthers. That may have been because they were playing a team starting a rookie quarterback that might run the ball a lot so they dressed all available defensive lineman and linebackers. Still, Smith needs to contribute soon.
Recently, he was getting work at guard this week to improve his versatility. Dennis Roland is a good run blocker but it is time to insert Smith into the lineup at right tackle.
Against the Browns, the Bengals should line him up and accept whatever growing pains come up.
6. Seneca Wallace
While Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace didn't run for any yards last week, he is a fairly mobile quarterback. The Bengals should expect quite a few misdirections and rollouts. Unfortunately, the Bengals linebackers have struggled when faced with a quarterback who moves around. The Bengals coaches will have to stress to them not to over pursue the play action fakes. Wallace also will dump off to tight end Benjamin Watson and running back Peyton Willis a lot. The Bengals have to keep those plays in front of them and not allow those to turn into big gains or they could be in trouble.
Update: If Jake Delhomme can handle the pain in his sprained right ankle, he will be be the Browns' quarterback on Sunday.
7. Peyton Hillis
Browns running back Peyton Hillis is a big back who ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries last week. He also caught seven passes for 36 yards.
Hillis is a tough between the tackles runner. His performance against one of the better run defenses in football was impressive. The Bengals have a run stuffer in Domata Peko. He will need to plug the middle so Hillis has nowhere to go.
8. Josh Cribbs
Josh Cribbs has been hobbled recently with a sprained left ankle. However, he seemed fine on game day against the Ravens. He ended up catching five balls for 58 yards.
Cribbs is also dangerous on kickoff returns. He is capable of a quick score and can keep the Browns in the game. Keeping him in check will be a big factor. To do this, the Bengals will need kicker Mike Nugent and punter Kevin Huber to have games like they did against the Panthers. These two need to make the Browns start every position deep into their own territory with deep kickoffs and well placed punts.
9. Stopping The Browns
Despite not having any wins, the Browns aren't bad this year. They have talent on both sides of the ball. Wallace isnt great, but he is a veteran who will hit the safe throws all day. Watson is a good tight end. Cribbs can be a force in the open field. Mohamed Massaquoi was only targeted once last week but he is more than capable of a big game.
The Bengals should be prepared for a tough opponent.
Expect the game to be played in conditions that may favor the Browns. The forecast says sunny with an outside chance of rain.
Bad conditions may help the Browns. Their short passing and tough running is an advantage in wet conditions. They will try to play field position with a lot of safe plays. If Cribbs can break off a couple big returns, they could be in business.