The Buckeye State will see the southern Bengals travel north to tangle with the Browns in what is commonly referred around the NFL as the battle of Ohio. While games between these two usually have no significant meaning, the Browns have been dismal for many years, this game is always hard fought and both teams vie desperately for bragging rights. The (0-3) Cleveland Browns will play host to the (2-1) Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium this Sunday in what is forecasted as a wet and cold afternoon along Lake Erie, kickoff slated for 1PM EST. Cincinnati has won eight straight division games heading into Sunday’s matchup in Cleveland, where the Browns hope to ride the backfield boost provided by Peyton Hillis to their first victory.
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of a hard fought victory over the Carolina Panthers and head into this one trying to keep pace with the Steelers atop of the AFC North. The Bengals have looked lack luster through three games and there are significant areas for improvement on both sides of the ball. The Bengals Carson Palmer may not be the most athletically built of specimens but he is most strong from the neck up, he is great at managing games and he puts the ball where it needs to be. Palmer has been average, at best, but needs to get better protection from his offensive line in order for his star power to return. While Palmer has only been sacked once in each of the last three games, he is the most hurried pivot in the league this year. Add to that Cedric Benson’s early season struggles with a mere 3.1 yards-per-carry average and one can begin to formulate the root of Cincinnati’s offensive problems. The largest of the issues is a lack of consistency and strong talent at left guard and right tackle. The 2009 first round draft pick Andre Smith was supposed to be the anchor at right tackle, but injuries and a contract holdout last year have stymied his young career and created unrest on the right side of the line. Meanwhile, it’s kind of an old issue, but the Bengals have never really been able to find a suitable replacement at left guard since Eric Steinbach joined the Browns a few years ago. The moxy of this Bengals wide receiving corp is captivating and every team thus far they’ve played have paid special attention to shutting down the trio of Ochocinco, Owens, and Shipley.
The Cleveland Browns return home this Sunday after an honorable effort in Baltimore last week, a game that witnessed the emergence of RB Peyton Hillis. The 3rd year back ran for 144 yards on 22 carries against a ferocious defense in the Ravens. It appears that Hillis will be taking handoffs from Jake Delhomme instead of Wallace this week. Delhomme was cleared to practice this past week and as long as there are no setbacks with the sprained right ankle that kept him out two games, the veteran will be back under center. Cleveland’s defensive line is pretty banged up this week with Shaun Rogers, Robaire Smith and Kenyon Coleman all sitting out of practice this week with various injuries, all of whom might be subject to game time decisions. If that’s the case and the Browns don’t want to make any significant roster moves, expect linebackers like Matt Roth and David Bowens to get more reps on the line or in a three-point stance. Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan should be able to juggle a rotation of only three big men on game day with smart strategy and personnel use. It will be interesting to see if the Browns new found success on the ground will carry through to this Sunday against their neighbor to the south in the Bengals.
Bengals vs Browns Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Cincinnati Bengals -3
@ Cleveland Browns +3
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Bengals vs Browns Prediction for Week 4:
Game Total Prediction (TOP PLAY) – There is no solid stat that I can give you that will supplement this prediction, so instead I will explain my approach here. I like the OVER in this contest and it is my top-play overall for the entire week 4 skid of games. The Browns found out last week in Maryland that they have a special power in running back Peyton Hillis who ran for 144 yards against the Ravens. I expect the Browns to continue pounding the ball inside against a rather weak Bengals defensive front, which should see some rather large gains on the ground. The Bengals finally will get to see a defensive secondary that isn’t in the top ten in secondary categories and we might finally see what the “Batman and Robin”, AKA Ochocinco and Owens, show is all about. We will most likely see an aggressive offensive approach by the Bengals who will want to work out some kinks before next weeks grudge match against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My top play for this week is the OVER in this battle of Ohio.
Spread Prediction – Strange things can happen in rivalry games, clear underdogs become legitimate contenders. The Browns come into this affair with a little frustration that they might have let one slip away against the Ravens and will want to exert some of this anger against a banged up Bengals defense. Jake Delhomme will most likely make his return in which only bodes well for the home team. Cincinnati is 0-6 ATS when playing against a team with a losing record over the last 2 seasons. The Bengals are also 1-8 ATS as a favorite over the last 2 seasons. Cleveland, on the other hand, is 3-1 against the spread versus the Bengals over the last 2 seasons. I believe the Dawgs have a real shot at earning their first victory of the year and possibly holding off the firing of coach Eric Mangini. I recommend taking a look at the Browns in this much anticipated interstate rivalry game. Cheers!
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