WHEN THE BROWNS HAVE THE BALL
In two career games against the Bengals, McCoy has completed 38-of-65 passes (58.5 percent) for 456 yards with four touchdowns, an interception and a 94.1 passer rating. In his past three starts in November, the second-year quarterback has a 90.2 passer rating. Ogbonnaya had a career-high 115 rushing yards last week and is averaging 102.5 rushing yards per game in Cleveland’s past two outings. He posted his first career rushing touchdown as well last week. Tight end Benjamin Watson has 16 catches for 197 receiving yards in his past three games against Cincinnati and needs two catches to reach 100 with the Browns. Wide receiver Greg Little, a second-round pick in last April’s draft, leads NFL rookies with 42 receptions. In five career games against Cincinnati, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi averages 18.1 yards per catch (14 receptions, 253 yards), while fellow wideout Joshua Cribbs has three touchdown catches in his past four games.
For the Cincinnati defense, cornerback Nate Clements recorded his first interception as a Bengal last week and tackle Geno Atkins has three sacks in his past four games. Outside linebacker Thomas Howard has 54 tackles and two forced fumbles on the season.
Statistically speaking, the Browns are 28th in scoring offense (14.5 ppg), 29th in total yards (298.1 ypg), 23rd in passing (205.0 ypg) and 29th in rushing (93.1 ypg). The Bengals’ defense is eighth in points allowed (19.5 ppg), sixth in total yards allowed (311.1 ypg), 11th against the pass (222.5 ypg) and third against the run (88.6 ypg).
WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
As previously noted, Dalton has 15 passing touchdowns on the season, tied with Hall of Famer Dan Marino (1983) and Peyton Manning (1998) for the most by a rookie through his team’s first 10 games since the 1970 merger. The second- round draft choice also needs one touchdown pass to surpass Greg Cook (15 in 1969) for the most by a rookie in club annals. Dalton had a career-best 373 passing yards last week and had a touchdown pass, zero interceptions and a 102.4 passer rating in the season opener against Cleveland. In his past two games against the Browns, Benson has rushed for 271 yards with two touchdowns, and the veteran tied a career-best with two rushing touchdowns last week. Green, the fourth overall pick in this past draft, leads NFL rookies in receiving yards (635) and touchdown catches (6) and had a 41-yard go-ahead touchdown catch in his only meeting with the Browns. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson had a career-best 152 receiving yards on eight receptions, while counterpart Andre Caldwell has two touchdowns in his past three games.
Rookie linemen Jabaal Sheard (3.5 sacks) and Phil Taylor (4) have combined for 7 1.2 sacks for Cleveland’s tough defense, while middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson had a career-high two sacks in the Week 1 loss to the Bengals. Second- year cornerback Joe Haden has 39 tackles and a sack to lead the secondary.
By the numbers, the Bengals are 12th in scoring offense (23.6 ppg), 18th in total yards (329.2 ypg), 17th in passing (223.1 ypg) and 19th in rushing (106.1 ypg). The Browns are seventh in scoring defense (19.3 ppg), fifth in total yards allowed (305.8 ypg), first against the pass (166.5 ypg) and 29th against the run (139.3 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
Dalton has been bitter and sweet over the last two weeks, though his five interceptions have to be a concern against a team that’s first in the league defending the pass.
The flip side of Cleveland’s solid pass defense is porous run stopping for the Browns, who’ll likely get extended doses of Benson while the Bengals take the heat off Dalton. Benson’s productive running was a big factor in Cincinnati’s win over its rival earlier in the season.
The Browns’ running back-by-committee approach may have uncovered a jewel in Ogbonnaya, who went for his career-best total last week. Cincinnati’s third- best run defense will be tested, and any help the struggling McCoy can get from the ground game would be a plus.
Prediction – A win on opening day set up what’s been a successful season for the 6-4 Bengals, who play a Browns team that held on for a huge 14-10 win over the Jags at home last week. The Bengals have lost two in a row, but won’t need to score that much to beat the Browns, who still have yet to score a TD in quarter one. Look for Andy Dalton and company to have a good day against a Browns team still searching. Cincinnati 27 Cleveland 10