Browns-Bengals Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals are still on top of the AFC North despite

back-to-back overtime losses.

Another setback this week against the visiting Cleveland Browns

would not only see their advantage all but disappear, it would also

mark the first time they’ve been swept in the season series in 11

years.

Cincinnati looks to restore its recent domination of its

intrastate rivalry with Cleveland on Sunday.

After a 17-6 loss in Cleveland on Sept. 29, their second

consecutive defeat in the series after winning 13 of 16, the

Bengals (6-4) won four straight to build a healthy divisional lead

over the erratic Browns and Ravens.

But becoming the 16th team in league history to drop consecutive

games in overtime has seen that edge fall to 1 1/2 games.

“We pushed things forward very positively, now we’ve dug a

little bit of a hole and we’ve got to climb out and play better

this week against the Browns,” coach Marvin Lewis said.

The Bengals were impressive in battling back from large deficits

in both losses but couldn’t close things out. They overcame a 17-3

hole at Miami two weeks ago before Andy Dalton was sacked for a

safety in overtime.

Cincinnati erased Baltimore’s 17-0 halftime advantage last week,

tying the game at the end of regulation on A.J. Green’s improbable

51-yard touchdown catch. But the offense stalled in the extra

period, allowing the Ravens to kick the winning field goal.

Dalton has been crucial in the comeback efforts, but he’s also

again come under fire for shaky play overall with a 53.8 passer

rating over the last two games. He was also inefficient against the

Browns, going 23 for 42 with 206 yards and an interception.

Though Cincinnati has fallen in a rut, the schedule ahead is

favorable. Owning a 4-0 record at home, the Bengals will play four

of their last six in Cincinnati, and only one remaining opponent

boasts a winning record.

“We know what we have in front of us,” cornerback Terence Newman

said. “We just have to win some football games.”

Coming out of their bye week, the Browns (4-5) are one win shy

of matching last year’s total and very much alive in a muddled AFC

playoff picture.

Sweeping the Bengals for the first time since 2002 would be a

big accomplishment in itself for a franchise that has lost 10-plus

games in nine of the last 10 seasons.

“It’s been a while man,” nose tackle Phil Taylor said.

“Everybody talking about Cleveland this, the mistake on the lake,

all this other stuff, man. It’s time for a change. We’re tired of

losing around here. We’ve got the talent in here to go all the way

to the top, we’ve just got to get it done.”

Jason Campbell has recorded Cleveland’s highest passer ratings

of the season in his first two starts with the team, coming up just

short in a 23-17 loss at undefeated Kansas City before leading the

Browns to a 24-18 victory over Baltimore on Nov. 3.

He suffered bruised ribs against the Ravens, but coach Rob

Chudzinski said he was full speed in practice Monday. Campbell has

gone 45 of 71 for 555 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in the

last two games while providing more stability for an offense that

had been marred by Brandon Weeden’s inconsistency and Brian Hoyer’s

season-ending knee injury.

“You saw him from a leadership standpoint,” Chudzinski said.

“The calmness out there, the ability in that final drive to make

plays when that was crunch time and in a critical part in the game

and just his presence with our younger guys. What he’s doing is

really giving us a life.”

Campbell should have some potent targets to work with, given

what Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron have done against the Bengals.

Gordon has caught seven passes for 170 yards and a score in his

last two games versus Cincinnati, while Cameron had 10 receptions

for 91 yards and a TD in the season’s first meeting.

Giovani Bernard, who is second among rookie running backs with

723 scrimmage yards and has three TDs over his last two games, will

face a Cleveland defense that has been vulnerable of late against

dynamic backs.

The Browns surrendered a combined 363 yards to Reggie Bush,

Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles in their last three games. Bernard

totaled 75 yards on 16 touches against them earlier this

season.

Green has gone over 100 receiving yards in five straight games,

but Cleveland held him to 51 on seven catches in Week 4.