It’s Thursday Night Football, and it’s the AFC North’s turn to take centre stage with the battle of Ohio. And just to add intrigue, it’s Johnny Football time again. The Bengals 7-0 for the first time in franchise history, and they are rolling. They could legitimately make a claim for the most talented roster in the NFL, as they boast players at the top of their position on both sides of the ball. They are also looking for revenge for the Browns dismantling of them on TNF last season. The Browns season cannot be held in the same regard as the Bengals. Despite a few games that showed improvement, it’s been the same old Browns. The defense has been incredibly porous, and the offense has largely struggled.
Three Keys to the game:
- Cleveland’s running game
Since Pettine’s appointment as head coach the Browns have tried to emphasise the running game. But in tonight’s game that has to be a priority. With Manziel under centre, regardless of the improvement he has shown, they Browns can’t afford to have Manziel drop back to pass more than 25 times. If he has to, the Browns could be in trouble.
- Cincinnati’s running game
The Bengals have what should be the best 1, 2 punch in the NFL in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and the Browns run defense has been amongst the worst in the NFL. If Hill and Bernard can get it going like they did last year, Dalton’s tendency to blow it in prime time may not rear its head.
- Cleveland’s defense
The Browns will be without Joe Haden and Donte Whitner tonight and Tashaun Gipson is not 100%. The already leaky defense has to find a way to shut down the Bengals plethora of offensive talent or this game could get out of hand.
Match-up to watch
Johnny Manziel against the Bengals defense Manziel’s first career start was against the Bengals, and they embarrassed him. This time, it has the potential to be worse. The Bengals defense has gotten better since last year and they’re undefeated. Furthermore, there is a fair chance Manziel will have the task of keeping up with the vaunted Bengals offense. Though Manziel has developed and improved since last year, he has to be very careful with the ball and make good decisions to keep the Browns in this game.
What I would love to happen is Johnny Manziel breaks out big time, throwing and running all over the Bengals defense, handing them their first loss and winning the starting QB job, but I really don’t see that happening. The Bengals have far too much talent, and they appear to have gotten over their tendency to slump in big spots. I think the Bengals win this game convincingly.