Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns

For the Cleveland Browns to remain mathematically in the playoff hunt, they must first win this Week 16 AFC North matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have already been eliminated from post-season play, all happening on Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 pm at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH, broadcasted by CBS.

The 6-8 Cincinnati Bengals:

Injuries have made the 6-8 Cincinnati Bengals’ offense unrecognizable, their franchise quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb) and star wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) both on injured reserve and now their next best receiver Tyler Boyd (knee) was hurt in Week 15 and is questionable against the Browns.

With their cut-and-pasted team, the Week 15 Bengals, led by backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, finally ended their five-game losing streak when they beat the hapless Oakland Raiders 30-16 and will now travel north on I-70 to Cleveland with the tiniest bit of momentum.

Cincinnati is 2-4 on the road but just 1-3 against teams from the AFC North, so it will take a huge game from the injured Bengals for them to beat the surging Browns in their own stadium.

The 6-7-1 Cleveland Browns:

You’ve got to hand it to the 6-7-1 Cleveland Browns for still being mathematically capable of making the playoffs, especially considering that this time last year they were 0-14.

Last week against the Denver Broncos at Mile High, Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield squeaked a 17-16 win with an unimpressive performance for him, completing 18-of-31 for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns but throwing a critical interception to end the first half in a 10-10 tie.

Cleveland is 4-2-1 at FirstEnergy, they’re 2-1-1 against teams from the AFC North and they’ve already beaten the Bengals in Week 12 by a score of 35-20 so it’s no wonder they’re favored in this one by more than a touchdown.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 90 times, with Cleveland winning 40 games and Cincinnati winning 50 games. The Bengals have won eight of the last ten meetings, but in Week 12 of this season it was a loss to the Browns by a score of 35-20.

If the Bengals win this matchup, their record will be 7-8, and though they’d still be eliminated from the playoffs, for at least a week they’d be out of the AFC North basement with Cleveland taking that spot.

But if the Browns come out on top, they’ll be 7-7-1 and will have done everything in their power to remain in the playoff race, although to play in the post season a lot of teams would have to lose and the Colts and Titans would have to tie in Week 17.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 16 Bengals-Browns matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Bengals and the Browns and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Bengals offense ranked 25th in the NFL

Cincinnati’s offense can score, averaging 24.1 points per game off of 326.2 total yards.

Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is technically in his third NFL season but hasn’t played much, completed 14-of-33 against the Raiders for 130 yards and a touchdown with one interception.

With the injuries to Green and Boyd, wide receivers John Ross and Alex Erickson will get a chance to shine, their receiving squad currently ranked 23rd overall.   

Bengals rushing attack all Mixon

Second-year running back Joe Mixon took the team on his shoulders against the Raiders and had the biggest game of his season.

Mixon ran 27 times for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  

Cincinnati offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 16: wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee), head coach Marvin Lewis said the Bengals will make a decision on Boyd later this week.

The 2018 Browns offense ranked 16th overall

Given that the Browns switched head coaches and offensive coordinators after their Week 8 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s remarkable that rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has shown that development and output that he has.

Under interim head coach Gregg Williams and new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, the Browns are 4-2 and Mayfield has thrown for 13 touchdowns and has only been sacked 5 times, whereas prior to the change the Browns were 2-5-1, Mayfield threw for 8 touchdowns and was sacked 20 times.

Having a big 2018 season is wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who’s caught 72 balls for 827 yards and 3 touchdowns, averaging 11.5 yards per reception for a Browns pass attack ranked 16th.

Cleveland’s run game 13th overall

The dust has settled in the Browns rushing corps and two rookies, Nick Chubb and Dontrell Hilliard, and dual threat Duke Johnson Jr. remain, and they’ve been entirely effective, nearing top-ten status.

The main man to watch is Chubb, who is tied for 12th most rushing yards, 860, and has the 8th most rushing touchdowns 8, including a 92-yarder that broke a franchise record.

Cleveland offensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 16: guard Austin Corbett (foot).

Bengals Defense ranks 32nd in the league

Any team that plays the Bengals can expect to score an average of 29.5 points (second highest allowed in the league) and move the ball a total of 413.0 yards, both their rush and pass defenses ranked 29th.

Cincinnati’s 11 team interceptions puts them tied for 19th in that category, while their 33 team sacks has them ranked 24th.

Bengals Defensive Players to watch:

Looks like two of the Bengals defense might make it to 100 tackles on the season – free safety Jessie Bates has 98 tackles and strong safety Shawn Williams has 94.

Sack lovers should keep their eyes on defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has 10.0 sacks and defensive end Carlos Dunlap who has 8.0.

The Bengals secondary will pick you off, Williams has 4 interceptions and free safety Jessie Bates has 3.

Bengals defensive injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 16: outside linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Jordan Evans (ankle) and cornerback KeiVarae Russell (finger).

Linebacker Malik Jefferson (foot) was put on injured reserve on Tuesday.

Browns Defense is 29th overall

Cleveland’s defense hasn’t fared much better than Cincinnati’s, though they’ve improved slightly since Week 9’s coaching changes, allowing opponents to score 24.9 points and move the ball 401.1 yards per game.

The Browns have 30 takeaways (second most in the league) with a 24th ranked rush defense and a 30th ranked pass defense.

Cleveland’s 17 interceptions is third most in the NFL, but their 32 team sacks put them tied for 25th in a league of 32.

Browns Defensive Players to watch:

The big tackler for the Browns is outside linebacker Jamie Collins, who has 92 combined tackles (11 for loss), 6 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Keep your eyes on Cleveland’s defensive quarterback, middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who has 87 combined, 3 for loss, 2.0 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception.

You want to see hustle, watch Pro-Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett go after the quarterback – he’s tied for sixth most sacks (12.5) and has 27 quarterback hits and 3 forced fumbles.

The Browns secondary is a dangerous place to throw with strong safety Damarious Randall’s 4 interceptions and rookie Pro-Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward’s 3.

Browns Defensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 16: cornerbacks Denzel Ward (concussion) and Phillip Gaines (knee).

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Cincinnati’s punter, Kevin Huber, has been in the league and with the Bengals since 2009.

So far, he’s punted 60 times for a net average of 39.2 yards per punt, tied for 23rd in the league.

Cleveland’s punter, Britton Colquitt is in his third year and has punted 77 times (second most in the league) for a net average of 38.5 yards per punt, ranked 31st in the league.

Placekickers:

Cincinnati’s journeyman placekicker, Randy Bullock, is now playing for his fifth new team, sixth if you count his first brief stint with the Bengals in 2016.

Bullock is 16-for-20, his longest a 51-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (37/39).

Cleveland’s front office hired rookie placekicker, Greg Joseph, after the Browns initial kicker missed critical field goals and extra points in the first two games.

So far, he’s 14-for-16, his longest was a 51-yarder. He has missed three extra point attempts (20/23).

Punt Returners:

Cincinnati’s punt returner, wide receiver Alex Erickson, is ranked 12th in the league in return average.

Erickson has returned 18 punts for 209 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 12.1 yards per return, his longest for 38 yards.

Cleveland’s punt returner, safety Jabrill Peppers, is ranked 26th in the league.

Peppers has returned 23 punts for 207 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 9.0 yards per return, his longest being 33 yards.

Bengals–Browns prediction and odds

The odds makers have the Browns favored over the Bengals by 7.5 with an over/under of 44.5.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:          

Pete Prisco goes with the under and has it Browns 27, Bengals 17.

John Breech takes the over and predicts it Browns 27, Bengals 24.

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