It’s time for the Bengals to shake off the embarrassment from Week 8’s loss to the Jets and shift their focus to a division rival. A win this week would certainly make everybody in that building feel better and prove to the people on the outside that they can handle the wrath that comes with playing in the AFC North.
While the Cleveland Browns have had to spend the week fielding questions about the drama surrounding Odell Beckham Jr., the Bengals have had their heads down getting ready for a critical Sunday afternoon date.
The focus and most important aspect of this game will come from the trenches.
Here are the three keys to victory for the Bengals ahead of a pivotal AFC North matchup:
Get after Baker Mayfield
The Bengals must take advantage of the injured Baker Mayfield.
The quarterback is playing hurt after tearing the labrum on his left non-throwing shoulder. His ability to make accurate passes has been affected by this which has brought some serious trouble to Cleveland’s passing game completing 66.7% of his passes through seven games this season.
He's completing just 62% of his passes and has only five touchdowns in his last five games. Mayfield’s most targeted receiver, Jarvis Landry had 10 targets last week against the Steelers, but the five-time Pro Bowler dropped two passes and lost a fumble in their 15-10 loss to Pittsburgh. The Bengals rank 23rd in pass defense and I expect them to take it up a notch this week against an offensive line that has allowed 23 sacks on the year.
Unleash Trey Hendrickson and make Mayfield’s day a miserable one to the point where he dreads that second date with the Bengals defense in January.
Contain Browns Rushing Attack
Though Nick Chubb didn’t have the best return game last week (16 carries, 61 yards, 3.8 yards-per-carry), I expect to see him get a lot of touches on Sunday. Stopping the run is a tall order for any team going against a run game that ranks first in the league with 161.1 rushing yards per game, but the Browns are at an added disadvantage.
With Mayfield playing through an injury, it’s likely that last week's struggles continue. If he fails to generate explosive plays down field, Alex Van Pelt will rely on their rushing attack to get the job done. The Bengals are currently ranked seventh in the NFL against the run, holding opponents to less than 100 rushing yards per game. Bringing the heat against one of Cleveland’s strongest suits will help them win another AFC North battle.
Keep Joe Burrow Out of the Graveyard
Myles Garrett talked a lot of smack with his Halloween decorations this year where his yard featured a graveyard with quarterback’s names covering the tombstones. Joe Burrow was in that graveyard, and the Bengals' offensive line must make sure that he isn’t running for his life on Sunday. Garrett has the stats to back up his smack talking ranking first in the NFL in sacks with 10.5 and also holding the top spot in tackles for loss (11).
The pressure will also be on Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins to do their jobs in a timely manner with Garrett on a mission to put Burrow six feet under, both the offensive line and receiving corps have to have their best games in order to keep him upright.
The “Quarterback Eater” is coming to Paul Brown Stadium with the intention of having a feast on Sunday and Cincinnati needs to make sure Joe doesn’t become his Burrow-ito with extra sour cream on the side.
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