The next two games for the Cincinnati Bengals may look like a ride on the kiddie rollercoaster, but they’re actually important battles. Each one will expose the mindset of the Bengals and test their attitudes as they move toward the playoffs. A showdown with the Browns is on tap for Sunday. After that divisional skirmish, the Steelers make a trip to Paul Brown Stadium with revenge on their agenda.
Though the Browns lost a close game on Monday Night Football, they were close to winning the contest. Josh McCown left with a clavicle injury and was replaced by Austin Davis. The Ravens were able to get a win when a last-minute field goal was blocked and they were able to run it in for a score as time expired. The loss was a shocker, but opened Mike Pettine’s eyes to the skills of his backup QB.
If the sequel to The Battle of Ohio looks like a cakewalk, it’s not. The Bengals will have to remain on high alert for the game and fight the temptation for a letdown. Losing to the lowly Browns could make the nation regard the Bengals as the ultimate pretenders. Cincinnati will have to remain focused and display a killer instinct for 60 minutes. Johnny Manziel is also waiting for a chance to redeem himself for both Pettine and the Browns.
Per ESPN, the Bengals are preparing for the fifteenth player to start at quarterback for the Browns, since Marvin Lewis has been at the helm.
Let’s look at four major keys for a Bengals win.
This may seem like a laughable tidbit. It’s not. The Bengals have a tendency to letdown when the nation is thinking they should blow an opponent to smithereens. The defense has been saying they’re ready for whoever the Browns have under center. That’s a good thing. But, what has been blatantly evident is the Bengals’ uncanny ability to start playing like under-achievers when the game is important. Sunday’s matchup at FirstEnergy is to gain a playoff spot and secure a good seed. That’s a pretty good reason for a bad team to rise up and play like a champion. Stop it before it starts.
The running game
Jeremy Hill got back on track against the Rams and reminded the fans of what he can do. The Browns defense has been reeling. Since playing the Bengals, Cleveland’s defense has dropped to No. 30. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard should have a field day against the front four of the Browns. Getting the running game to a consistent state will save wear and tear on Andy Dalton and keep the offensive line sharp for the playoff run.
What can be said about the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense? They have become consistently better with the return of Vontaze Burfict. Adam Jones is still nursing a foot injury and was limited in practice. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has mentioned getting the younger players into the rotation more. After a meltdown in Arizona, the Bengals are looking to avoid the same thing happening once more. Substituting players may lead to Austin Davis getting confident. That can’t happen at all. Get in his face and make him second guess every decision.
Once the Bengals are ahead of teams, they tend to get lazy. At this time of year, it’s about going all out and making the opponent respect who you are. The next obstacle on the road to success is the Steelers. The Pittsburgh coaching staff will look back at the game film and see either a driven team or a unit looking to back into the postseason. The Browns must be dealt with like they are the defending champs. That will seal a win for the men in Orange and Black.
[Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images]