NFL 2017 Week 4: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns preview and prediction

Something's gotta give as two of the NFL's winless teams meet up in Cleveland.

The Bengals coughed up a 14-point lead and allowed the Packers to keep them winless in a 27-24 overtime loss. Cincinnati showed great improvement on offense, scoring their first touchdowns of the season on a pair of Andy Dalton passes. They also received a pick six from William Jackson III to give them a 21-7 lead. But they couldn’t hold down Aaron Rodgers when they needed to late in the game. He rallied the Packers to tie it twice and then led the game-winning drive for a Mason Crosby field goal in the overtime period.

Cleveland gave up too much early ground to the Colts and their comeback efforts fell short 31-28 in a battle between 0-2 teams. The Colts defense struggled to contain the running and passing of Jacoby Brissett and couldn’t handle T.Y. Hilton’s big-play ability at receiver. The Browns received two touchdown passes and a scoring run by DeShone Kizer, but interceptions were again a big problem, as he tossed three in the second half. Duke Johnson was effective out of the backfield, amassing 81 receiving yards and running for a touchdown.

Dalton’s gang

The switch to Bill Lazor at offensive coordinator paid immediate dividends for the Bengals. He made sure Andy Dalton got rid of the ball quickly and also put the ball in the hands of rookie Joe Mixon often in the backfield. Still, the offense managed just a field goal in the second half and the overtime, as the Packers started to devote more attention to AJ Green and put more pressure on Dalton. Cincinnati’s next step is a complete offensive performance.

Throw to the right team

By most accounts, rookie DeShone Kizer has done a nice job for a rookie quarterback pretty much thrown into the fray. But the last two games his carelessness with the ball has cost the offense a lot of points and put his defense, which isn’t all that fearsome to begin with, in some tough situations. Cincinnati’s defense has played very well for the first three games of the season, as they really only caved in the second half against Green Bay, The Bengals will be looking to get their hands on Kizer’s passes.

If we could just run it a little

After running for over 1,000 yards a year ago, Isaiah Crowell seemed to be on the verge of becoming one of the premier running backs in the league. Yet after three games, he’s sitting on a paltry 114 rushing yards and averaging less than three yards per carry. Part of that comes from teams not respecting the Browns threats on the perimeter. But Crowell needs to start finding daylight for the rookie quarterback to have a legitimate shot to win.

Matchup to Watch: Bengals RB Joe Mixon vs. Browns DT Danny Shelton

Mixon received 21 touches a week ago compared to 13 combined from Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, so it seems like the Bengals are ready to run with the rookie. Shelton is an excellent run stuffer for the Browns, but he is questionable with a calf injury. The Browns are already missing top draft pick Myles Garrett from the defensive line. If Shelton is hobbled or out as well, Mixon might have the first 100-yard game of his young career.

Fantasy Football Tip: Browns WR Kenny Britt

Just a week ago, we were touting Rashard Higgins in this column, but he was hardly heard from in the loss to Indianapolis. Instead it was Britt, who had been in the doghouse early in the season and was looking like a free agent bust, who stepped up with a touchdown catch. He’s worth a DFS dart throw if you want to spend big elsewhere.

Betting Tip: Bengals (-3)

The Bengals lost to a good team on the road in overtime, while the Browns lost to a winless team with a backup quarterback. Take the Bengals minus 3.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals 26-13 Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati gets on the board in a must-win game and starts the ball rolling on a nice streak.

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Jim Beviglia


Jim is a freelance writer concentrating on music and sports. He is the author of four books and writes for several online and print publications. He lives in Old Forge, Pennsylvania with his wife Marie and his daughter Daniele.