The Battle of Ohio, Part 2 takes place at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday. The Browns have nothing more than pride and draft position to play for. Sometimes, that’s all a team needs to get the adrenaline pumping. That’s enough to turn a cakewalk into a nightmare. The Bengals will have to remain on high alert for the entire game. It may not be that easy.
The Browns visited Paul Brown Stadium, for a friendly game of tossing the pigskin, almost a month ago. On Thursday Night Football, the Bengals handed Cleveland a beat-down and exorcised a few demons in the process. But the following two prime time showdowns were flops for the Bengals. They lost a close game to the Texans and blew a shootout with the Cardinals. With the exception of a third quarter meltdown, Cincinnati played well.
The game in Cleveland is equally as important. The Bengals have a chance to secure an early playoff spot with a win and some help from their NFL friends. The pressure will be on the Bengals to prove they can walk into the postseason without having to wait until the last moments of the schedule.
Head coach Mike Pettine has already made a commitment to start Austin Davis at QB. While that may seem like an easy victory for the Bengals, it has a tiny bit of drama. Davis was inserted into the Browns’ Monday night game, after Josh McCown suffered an injury. He actually brought the Browns to the brink of a victory in relief of the starter. If not for the last-minute heroics of the Ravens, Davis would have been standing at the podium as the star of the game.
Austin Davis will be Browns' 24th starting QB since coming into league in 1999, the most in the NFL. The Patriots have the fewest with 3.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 2, 2015
The Bengals defensive players have stated they will play the same against anyone the Browns decide to start. The decision to start Davis got the usual responses. The Bengals had the same situation going into their game against the Buffalo Bills. They simply prepare for whichever player takes the field Sunday.
“At the end of the day whoever’s out there, remember the game plan, remember what type of quarterback this is and remember the film study and rely on that,” said Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey, via The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The system won’t change that much, with Davis under center. He’ll be running an offense that the Bengals have been able to plan for. All that matters is the defense responding to what the play dictates.
“They have their playbook, they have their system – you’re not going to change so much around in three days,” Bengals safety George Iloka said. “The game plan is really in by Wednesday, so, they played on Monday. I don’t think they changed their whole playbook around in two, three days. They’ll have a few wrinkles here or there, obviously that quarterback, whoever it is, will have their own different style, but the plays are the plays. We’ll go from there, study, and then adjust on the fly during the game.”
The Bengals seem confident they can keep Davis in check like they have Manziel over their previous two meetings. Cincinnati has outscored Cleveland 61-10 during that span. There may be a chance that the Browns switch to Johnny Manziel at halftime. Pettine has already hinted that he’s not done with his franchise quarterback.
According to information from the Bleacher Report, Pettine is still interested in seeing what both the young quarterbacks can do. If Davis struggles against the Bengals’ defense, Manziel may be called upon to mop up. It’s roster evaluation time and the Browns need to see what kind of drive both QBs have. The prospect of not truly having a set signal caller is something the Bengals can surely use to their advantage.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]