Call me crazy, but I feel like the Browns could have a good game today. I don’t know if it’s because of the holiday hangover or something else, but for whatever reason I feel like today could be the day the Browns offense wakes up and puts on a show.
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The Bengals are coming off of two very hard-fought games against the Steelers and Ravens, both losses, and have a make or break the season game next week against the Steelers. This could set up to be a trap game. The Bengals could be more focused on next week’s game and overlook the “not as bad as you think they are” Browns. The Browns could come in right away and punch the Bengals in the face from the get go.
There’s also the Browns performance last week against the Jaguars. The offense moved the ball well and actually got into the end zone. Hopefully they can build on that momentum and have another game where they actually look like an NFL offense. It looks like both Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis will be active today. How much they’ll play is anyone’s best guess, but if they can get anything it has to be a plus. Colt McCoy can also build on what was his best game of the season last week. If he can, the Browns will have a great chance of winning this game today.
By no means will this be an easy game. As the season has played out we’ve all realized something… the Bengals are actually a pretty good football team. They’re basically what everyone thought the Browns would be… a solid defense and an offense that can put up points and is fun to watch thanks to the emergence of rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. We’re everything everyone would the Bengals would be… a team struggling to make it through the season. Crazy how things turn out sometimes.
So what do the Browns have to do to win today?
5 keys to victory:
1. Continue to open up the offense: The Browns have made an effort to open up the offense a bit more in the past few weeks and the results have been good. The Browns have been able to move the ball and last week they actually got the ball in the end zone. It looks like Pat Shurmur might have gotten out of his play calling rut that peaked with the hand off to Alex Smith. If he can continue to call the right plays in the right situation there’s no reason why the Browns can’t win this game.
2. Put pressure on Andy Dalton: The first time the Browns played the Bengals they were able to put pressure on Andy Dalton and knock him out of the game. Despite how well he’s played this year, the fact of the matter is he’s still a rookie. He can be rattled. There is also a chance that A.J. Green won’t play today which will only make things more difficult for Dalton. The Browns need to take advantage.
3. Work the run: The Browns were finally able to run the ball last week versus the Jaguars and I fully expect them to try and pound the rock again today. If they can have all three of their running backs ready to go, it becomes a no brainer that they have to try and run the ball to wear down the Bengals defense. If they can run the ball successfully, that should help open things up for the passing game.
4. Don’t be afraid to throw the ball deep: The Browns need to try and throw the ball deep a few times. That will help open up the short to midrange passing attack because the Bengals will have to worry about that deep threat. They’s yet to really do that this year, but with the McCoy and the receiving core growing more comfortable, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t take a few chances down the field.
5. Don’t turn the ball over or make stupid penalties in the red zone: This is always a problem for the Browns. They drive down the field, get within striking range, and then either turn the ball over or start making stupid penalties and move backwards. That’s the primary reason why so many of the Browns drives tend to stall in the red zone. If they can find a way to correct this problem and keep moving forward they might actually put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals.
So what happens… I feel like today is the day the Browns really open it up and move the ball the way we thought they would all year. I think the defense will step it up and make life difficult for Andy Dalton. The end result, the Browns pull off the shocker and beat the Bengals by a final score of 24-14. Let’s hear it for the holiday hangover!