The 2011 NFL Season kicks off Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium with the “Battle of Ohio” as the Browns host their interstate rival – the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals come into 2011 looking a little bit different, with a rookie QB in Andy Dalton, along with a new core of WR’s now that Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are long gone. Rookie A.J. Green will be a target of Dalton, along with Andre Caldwell on the other side.
Dalton was taken in the 2nd round out of TCU, and with the decision by Carson Palmer not to come back to the team, it will up to Dalton to lead the Bengals. Look for Marvin Lewis and new OC Jay Gruden to be as simple as possible with the game-plan, only allowing Dalton to throw maybe 15-20 times in this opener.
If the Bengals are going to compete, they will need a big day from workhorse running back Ced Benson, who is back after a 1111-yard 7 touchdown season in 2010. In the December 19th game a season ago Benson went off for 150 yards and a TD vs the Browns, and that’s the type of effort he and the Bengals will need Sunday.
For the Browns, Colt McCoy is now the unquestioned starter at QB, and he will have to also be careful with the ball, keeping it away from Bengals CB’s Leon Hall and Nate Clements. Last December McCoy was 19-for-25 for 243 yards and two scores in the Browns 19-17 loss at Cincy.
Peyton Hillis had 102 yards in the first meeting with the Bengals in 2010, but in game two the Bengals D held him in check to the tune of 49 yards on 14 carries. If Cincy is going to pull off the win on the Lakefront, they will need to hold him and Montario Hardesty down and force McCoy to throw.
As usual with Browns-Bengals games, this will come down to the team that makes more bigger plays as well as what team can force if any turnovers. The Browns have the advantage at home, and even though McCoy is a young QB, Dalton is younger, and in his first NFL regular season game, the Browns D will force more mistakes than the Bengals.
Browns 23 Bengals 14