Duel # 1 in the Battle of Ohio

Besides Brown’s quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has played on that series (4-1, 12:18 against everyone else with a passerby rating of more than 30 points better than the rest of the division), the rivalry continues to be defined by the game in progress. In those four wins, the Browns averaged 5.6 yards per carry in games where they ran the ball an average of 27 times.

Mayfield’s only loss to the Bengals coincided with the fact that Cincinnati fell behind Joe Mixon’s career game, the 162-yarder in last year’s final. The last two wins against the Browns were courtesy of Mixon 100-yard games, which he played at least 23 times. His absence on Sunday is therefore a difficult challenge against a really good defense. With a great rusher like Myles Garrett and a great cover corner like Denzel Ward, they know they can’t toss it 61 times like they did last month.

Where do the stretcher come from? Giovani Bernard is as tough as any 5-9, 205-pounder who’s played in the NFL. But he’s only worn three or more times in his career, and the last time was in 2017 during his third and final 100-yard game when he went 116 yards with 23 runs against the Lions.

So he can do it, but he hasn’t had ten broadcasts in a game in over two years. Still, it’s not that Burrow is passing it on to the Bengal.com Media Roundtable. In addition to Bernard, he also has an SEC rushing leader available to him, although sophomore Trayveon Williams is looking for his first NFL carry.

And while the 240-pound Samaje Perine is known to run out of yards on his first carry in two years as Bengal last Sunday in Indy in the game’s biggest third-and-one, as of 2017, he’s mostly had 183 more carry in the NFL Washington when he had 100 yard games in a row and six games with at least 17 transfers.

Somehow they have to come up with enough stretcher to get Garrett interested in the run, and they seem to have enough people to do that.

Jackson is a big loss at cornerback, no question about it. He was consistently the top-rated cornerback in a season that saw some corner issues. The last time we saw Brown’s broad receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., he had a diva to match his kit last week. He may be a pain in the lake, but he and his runmate Jarvis Landry are good. They’re not rated as highly as the Bengals tandem by Tyler Boyd, 21, and Tee Higgins, 47, from Pro Football Focus. But Beckham, 35, and Landry, 56, are Pro Bowlers who will test a Bengals corner that Jackson and Trae Waynes should have been on, but now they aren’t. But although cornerback Darius Phillips, who is expected to start instead of Jackson, has been going up and down wildly (PFF had him rated best defender in Baltimore and worst in Indy the next week), he picked Mayfield twice last year finals.

But let’s face it, you have to circle Run Defense in this game after the Browns knocked it to the ground for 215 yards last month. That was with Nose Tackle DJ Reader and Tackle Mike Daniels in the middle. Daniels is back, but Reader and End Sam Hubbard are out. So running back Brown’s Nick Chubb and the 124 yards he had in the last game against the Bengals, but Kareem Hunt is very there and the Browns are still leading the NFL in a rush.

Nobody knows if Geno Atkins is back 65 percent or so or if it’s just third place like it has for the past two weeks, but since he wasn’t out there at all against Cleveland last month, that’s an upgrade. The Browns don’t have a proper guard at Wyatt Teller, which appeared to have been plastered on the Bengals linebackers all night last month. Since then, both the seasoned backers and the newbies have played better and that can be great against this running game.

Grossi always takes more than one look when the Bengals special teams play Cleveland, and especially on Sunday. It looks like he has a good reason. According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals are 12th in special teams and the Browns are second to last.

The Browns are penultimate covering kicks with the Bengals returning sixth thanks to Brandon Wilson, and the Browns are the 25th covering punts with the Bengals returning 13th thanks to the expertise of Alex Erickson. And the Bengals are also sixth to cover punts.

If it’s supposed to be as close as everyone thinks, the hero might be Wilson. Or maybe even punter Kevin Huber in his 24th Battle of Ohio to lead everyone on both sides of the ball in Sunday’s game.

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