The Cincinnati Bengals surprised everyone by making the playoffs last year, part of the NFC North's regular season dominance. With a rookie quarterback and rookie as the top wide receiver, they weren't supposed to even have a winning record.
So far this year, the Bengals appear to be on the same track. They are 3-2 and hold the second best record in the Black and Blue division. Don't be fooled- this good start is a mirage.
The Bengals are in the middle of the pack on both offense and defense. Their passing offense is highest rated of the four major categories at 11th, averaging 267 passing yards per game. The only team they've played with a winning record is the Baltimore Ravens, who dominated the Bengals in Week 1, 44-13.
One of their wins was against the Browns back in Week 2. The Browns actually had one of their best offensive performances that week, with Trent Richardson rushing for over 100 yards AND Brandon Weeden passing for over 300 yards. A little help from the defense and special teams, which allowed the Bengals to move down the field on multiple long plays, and the Browns would have won.
That defense could be in better shape this week with Joe Haden finally returning, and Scott Fujita should be playing this week (with more practice under his belt) while he appeals his new Bountygate suspension. Getting back a true starting corner will make the rest of the secondary better through a trickle-down effect- the number two corner will actually be the number two corner, etc.
An improved pass defense will be a big boon for the Browns, since Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is only averaging 60 yards per game (and a mere 3.3 yards per carry), while backup RB Bernard Scott is out for the year. Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman do not have the talent to improve on the Bengals' average of 104 yards per game. The Bengals will be virtually toothless without a strong passing game.
In addition, the Bengals offensive line looked ineffective last week when allowing three sacks. More importantly, Andy Dalton had multiple passes batted down at the line, and Cincinnati running backs weren't finding holes to run through because the line couldn't create them against the Miami defense.
I don't see "The Law Firm" suddenly breaking out into the player the Bengals expected when acquiring him in the offseason, and Dalton won't have any chance to study his opponent's defense before the game, so the passing game should be much weaker than it was in the last matchup. Add a home crowd hungry for a win, the improvement in the secondary, and the Benagls' issues on the offensive line, and the Browns defense will limit the Bengals to 250 yards of offense.
The Browns also have an offense built on talented rookies, and should be able to perform against the mediocre Bengals defense. Richardson should get plenty of carries late while trying to seal a victory, and could easily put up 100 yards again, but the real surprise will be Josh Gordon.
The Browns spent a future second round pick on Gordon in this year's supplemental draft, and last week Gordon started paying them back by scoring twice, including an early 62 yard bomb that put the Browns up 14-0. Gordon will have another 50 yard touchdown catch this week. He's not ready to be a consistent deep threat yet, but these types of plays will be a common occurrence for him in the near future.
Usually an inability to move the ball on offense, when combined with an inability to keep the opponent out of the endzone, leads to a loss, and this week is no exception. The Bengals will lose this week, and give the Browns their first win of the season. Final score: Cleveland 20, Cincinnati 14.
The author mysteriously lost interest in football, but regained his interest because the Steelers' loss to the Titans reminded him of why he loves sports to begin with. He also asked for this article specifically because he could smell an upset.
You can call him crazy on Facebook (search for RGDSports@yahoo.com) or Twitter (@RGDSports), or even just say so down below in the ocmments section. He's about to leave town for a while, but he should still be able to respond to your comments, be they rational, pure internet trolling, or just compliments.