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For the first time since the 2015 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have earned a playoff spot after winning the AFC North, so a win here against the divisional rival Cleveland Browns is not necessary but would be sweet for QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase, and HC Zac Taylor could use some practice before his postseason debut, a rivalry the Browns won in Week 9.
In one of the most disappointing seasons in Cleveland Browns’ history (one that is chock full of disappointing seasons), the team was eliminated from the playoffs with two games to go, and QB Baker Mayfield’s season is over as he attends to his injured shoulder, so now it will be up to backup QB Case Keenum to lead the rest of the Browns to a spoiler win over these Bengals.
These two AFC North rivals have played each other 96 previous times, with the Cleveland Browns winning 45 of those games and the Cincinnati Bengals winning 51 of the games.
One would think that the Bengals would be happy just getting to the playoffs, but when you listen to QB Joe Burrow talk to the media after games, it is clear that he and the rest of his squad have bigger goals to accomplish, including a Lombardi Trophy for their city.
That could be just talk, but the way Burrow has his 9th ranked offense firing off these days, they might just be able to outscore some of the favorites to win the Big Game, teams like the Titans and Chiefs and Packers and Buccaneers.
True, HC Zac Taylor is young by NFL standards (38 years old), and his roster is filled with young players new to the league, but during the course of the season this 10-win team has developed into a formidable opponent so expect them to prove that against these Browns.
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Since Week 2, Browns QB Baker Mayfield has been playing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, an injury that has forced him to wear a highly restrictive harness that has caused him to change his throwing motion and the results have been awful.
Now HC Kevin Stefanski has told the press that Mayfield will not play in Week 18 and will pursue surgery on his shoulder ASAP, so now the quarterback job goes to backup Case Keenum, a skilled veteran hurler who many thought should have been playing weeks ago.
Keenum has been in the league since 2013 and played with the Vikings back when Stefanski was coaching there, so the two can work well together for at least this final divisional matchup since ending this bitter and disappointing season with a win would be a nice way to go.
Yet another young superstar in the making playing for the Bengals is WR Tee Higgins, whose size (6’ 4” and 215 pounds) and speed and mature route-running have made this second-year player one of QB Joe Burrows’ new favorite targets the more the two play together.
Higgins was a Clemson star who was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft (33rd selection overall), and in just two seasons he has made himself a premiere target, so far this year with 74 receptions for 1,091 yards and 6 touchdowns with still another game to go.
Watch for Higgins to play a key role in these upcoming Bengals games as he takes advantage of al the double-teams that his playmaker teammates WR Ja’Marr Chase and TE C.J. Uzomah are attracting, Tee’s deep threat capabilities now putting defenses in a total bind.
With Browns star running backs Nick Chubb (ribs), Kareem Hunt (ankle) both listed as questionable to play in this meaningless game, expect most of the carries to go to backup D’Ernest Johnson, that is if he passes Covid protocols after testing positive last week.
Johnson has had to fill in for the Browns before when Chubb and Hunt were both down for the Week 7 matchup with Denver, and the 5’ 10” 208-pound speedster powered his way to 22 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown with 2 catches for 22 more yards.
This 25-year-old South Florida alum has been in the NFL for three seasons now averaging 5.3 yards per carry, so expect him to use this final Browns game to show off his skills since, due to an already crowded Cleveland RB room, he could be looking for a new franchise next season.
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|Bengals vs Browns Information|
|What||Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns|
|Where||FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio|
|When||Sunday, January 9, 2022; 1:00 PM ET|
|How to watch||FOX|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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