Cleveland Browns Cincinnati Bengals Preview
The Cleveland Browns aren't in the position they want to be, their playoff hopes hanging by a thread with four games left in the season. More likely playing for next season, they have a golden opportunity to give fans and critics reason to believe in a massive step forward next year as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the first of their two matchups.
The news that Odell Beckham has been playing this entire season with a sports hernia is a combination of frustrating, clarifying and reason to hope that this season was atypical. It's frustrating that Beckham has had to play this entire season with a hernia, which has undoubtedly impacted the team's ability to compete at a high level, but clarifies why it simply hasn't been as good as they were hoping it would be. Mostly, it suggests that Beckham's inauspicious debut season with the Browns was the exception rather than the rule.
Meanwhile, the Browns will get David Njoku back after missing 11 games. Creating a massive hole in the middle of their offense as well as the red zone, Njoku may have proven just how valuable he is to this offense in absentia. It gives the Browns far more options in how they want to attack opponents and Njoku enjoyed success against the Bengals in both games they played last year.
The defense is still compromised with the loss of players like Myles Garrett to suspension, a number of injuries and Olivier Vernon hampered by an injured knee. They do have a number of young players that are getting increased opportunities such as Sione Takitaki along with Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson, all rookies. Sheldrick Redwine started last week and it will be worth watching to see if he contributes this week.
The Bengals are 1-11, headed on a collision course with the #1 overall pick and likely LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. They still have dangerous players on their roster, including Geno Atkins on defense as well as Tylor Boyd on offense. Their offensive line is a disaster and their running game is putrid as a result.
Andy Dalton is back at quarterback, which helped the Bengals get their first win of the season. He's capable of giving the Browns problems if they let him sit back and pick them apart, which is what allowed Devlin Hodges to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a win last week.
This should be a game where the Browns not only secure a win, but provide some reason hope for better days ahead.
Olivier Vernon being out is another blow to what has become a completely impotent pass rush. The Bengal offensive line is bad enough it might be a wash.
Chris Hubbard being out means that Kendall Lamm will be the starting right tackle. Lamm is bigger than Hubbard, but largely the same in terms of performance from last season when Lamm was with the Houston Texans. He had missed much of this season with a knee injury he suffered week one of the season.