This week should bring the Bengals their 10th win and secure a 4-0 record in the AFC North.
Hold everything! It's one of those dreaded rivalry games where you can pretty much throw out the records. It's the Battle of Ohio, and though the Browns are reeling at 2-9 and finding new ways to lose games (for example, last week's blocked FG returned for a game winning TD at the end of regulation vs. the Ravens), it's still a rivalry game.
BUT the Bengals should win.
They crushed the Rams last week 31-7. The Bengals rebounded nicely from a 2 game skid (losing to the Houston Texans 6-10 when Dalton had them driving down for the winning score but AJ Green fumbled the ball deep in Texans' territory and then they lost another heartbreaker to a strong Arizona Cardinals team when they knotted the game up at 31-31 with a little over 90 seconds to go, but Carson Palmer drove the Cards into FG range in three passes to pull out the last second win. Still losing two games by a total of 7 points isn't the worst thing that could happen. Especially now that the Broncos have lost twice and the Pats have lost once and both of those teams are dealing with serious injuries).
While the Browns are missing a considerable chunk of their team due to injuries, the Bengals are down one very, very key player today: Tyler Eifert, who happens to lead the NFL in TD receptions with 12.
There is hope, though, the Bengals survived all last year (and managed to win 10 games) without him.
Hopefully, today Hue Jackson, Cincy's offensive coordinator, rediscovers one Jeremy Hill, who managed 86 yards last week and who would have broke a 100 yards rushing if not for an ankle injury, and hammers the ball down Cleveland's throat.
Throw in some screens to Gio Bernard and some slant passes to Mo Sanu and a couple deep ones to Marvin Jones and AJ Green, and the Bengals should be able to manage a win.
Hopefully the defense, who is facing an untested quarterback, Austin Davis, can get pressure on the QB and force some interceptions.
The Bengals have some key matchup looming after this game - home vs Pittsburgh and then on the road vs. Broncos. Those two games will decided (most likely) the fate of the AFC North and also if the Bengals can manage to lock up the #2 seed in the AFC (if not the #1 seed if the Pats should lose another game).
As it stands now, let's take a look at the most likely Bengals to wind up as All Pros this year -
Tyler Eifert. With Gronkowski out with a knee injury, Eifert has a chance to be the league leader in TD grabs. That should put him in the Pro Bowl.
Andy Dalton. Who would have thought it? He is currently the highest rated quarterback in the AFC not named Tom Brady.
AJ Green. He has never missed a Pro Bowl in his career, so why should he miss one now?
Andrew Whitworth. An elite left tackle. Hopefully, this year's success on offense will garner him more votes as opposed to letting in the usual suspects.
Geno Atkins. This is a lock. Geno is a monster. He leads the league in sacks at his position and he has destroyed teams this year.
Reggie Nelson. Currently the NFL interception leader. His tackling has been a bit shaky this year, but he has certainly been a ballhawk.
Carlos Dunlap. Stuck on 8.5 sacks, but if he can finish strong, he might squeeze in as an alternate.
Adam Jones. He made it last year as a returner, but this is easily his best year as a cornerback. He has blossomed into a Pro's pro. Who would have ever thought it? Now the question is can we resign him in the offseason?