NFL Week 9 Preview: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns — Johnny Manziel Starting

For the second consecutive year, Johnny Manziel’s first start of the season for the Cleveland Browns will come against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns and Bengals kick off Week 9 of the NFL regular season, as Cincinnati tries to remain undefeated, and Cleveland tries to turn their season around.

As Bleacher Report has noted, Browns regular starting quarterback Josh McCown has been dealing with a shoulder injury for weeks, and Johnny Manziel has taken snaps the last two games. But a start against Cincinnati will be his first of the year. Manziel’s NFL debut was against the Bengals last year, when Cleveland hosted Cincinnati at home on a Thursday night.

This comes in the midst of Johnny Football’s most recent scandal, potentially involving domestic violence. ESPN reports that the NFL is still investigating the situation involving Johnny Manziel and his girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, that took place on October 12. Of course, this comes at a time when the NFL has taken an extremely strong stand against domestic violence, and if the investigation into the Johnny Manziel/Colleen Crowley situation reveals any wrongdoing on Manziel’s part, he can expect a swift and severe punishment from the league.

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When the Cincinnati Bengals traveled to Cleveland last year to face Manziel and the Browns, the results weren’t good for Johnny Football. Manziel was completely shut out by the Bengals defense, and Cincinnati would go on to win 30-0. Manziel threw for just 80 yards while completing ten of his eighteen passes. He was sacked three times, and threw two interceptions. Up against an undefeated Cincinnati Bengals, he’s going to have to do much better this time around if Cleveland is going to stand any chance at all.

The Bengals are just one of the four teams yet with flawless records for the 2015 NFL season. Bleacher Report pointed out that the Cleveland Browns are the worst team in the league in terms of defending against the rush, and the Bengals have two very capable running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. While last week saw Andy Dalton pass more than twice as much as he handed it off, Cincinnati is likely to utilize the run against Cleveland.

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Last year, when the Bengals hosted the Browns, they passed the ball more than they ran it, and they lost 24-3. When they went to Cleveland, they ran the ball almost twice as often as they threw it, and it resulted in the 30-0 thrashing mentioned above.

Cleveland is fighting to stay out of last place in the AFC East, as they are currently tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 2-6. The rest of the season is looking pretty bleak for Cleveland at this point, but if Manziel can somehow lead the struggling Browns to victory over the undefeated Bengals, it may be just the spark they need to have a superb second half of the season and sneak their way into the playoffs.

There are a few interesting notes for those who have any of the Bengals or Browns on their fantasy team. While Dalton has recorded the fourth most points of any QB this season (according to NFL.com’s fantasy league information), he isn’t even in the top fifteen projected scores for quarterbacks this week. This is likely due to the fact that the Bengals are expected to run the ball a lot against the Browns. Both Bernard (15.90) and Hill (13.60) are projected to score more than the top Browns back, Duke Johnson (13.40). The Bengals Defense has the 13th best cumulative score so far, whereas the Browns Defense comes in at 16th. For their head-to-head match-up, however, Cincinnati is the highest projected defense in the league (13.50) while the Browns are tied with seven other teams for the 16th best projected score (5.00).

You can watch the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns tonight on the NFL Network. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:25 CST from Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

[Image credit Joe Robbins / Getty Images]