SERIES HISTORY: 90th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 50-39. Cincinnati has won the last seven meetings since a 24-3 loss on Nov. 6, 2014. During the last seven meetings, the Bengals are averaging 30.4 points while allowing nine points. The closest margin of defeat in the seven games was 13 points, 23-10, in Cleveland on Dec. 11, 2016.
KEYS TO THE GAME: This all-Ohio battle might be called the HueJax Bowl, as Hue Jackson, fired as head coach by Cleveland three weeks ago along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, will be on the Cincinnati sideline. Freddie Kitchens has been the Browns' offensive coordinator for two games. The biggest change from Haley calling plays is quarterback Baker Mayfield is getting rid of the ball with quick passes and more emphasis on running back Duke Johnson Jr.
Last week, the Bengals began the game in a two-back set with running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. It was a by-product of wide receiver A.J. Green's absence and even if Green plays it might be used again by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who used several running plays on second downs. "If you feel really good about the two running backs, well then do you always want to have one standing on the sideline?" Lazor said. "So that's what we started the first play of the game with both of them in there." Maybe, but numbers aren't impressive as the duo combined for 58 yards receiving and 19 rushing yards. Mixon was on the field for 34 snaps while Bernard was there for 24 snaps. This week, the Bengals are opposing a team among the worst at stopping the run.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--QUESTIONABLE: TE David Njoku (knee), C JC Tretter (ankle)
--OUT: WR Josh Malone (hamstring), LB Nick Vigil (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: T Cordy Glenn (back), WR A.J. Green (toe), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Browns LG Joel Bitonio vs. Bengals DT Geno Atkins. When opponents have success against Browns QB Baker Mayfield they do it with pressure up the middle. It will be up to the interior of the Browns' offensive line to keep the pocket clean, and that starts with holding up Atkins at the line of scrimmage.
--Browns FS Damarious Randall vs. Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Dalton has 20 touchdown passes through 10 games, but he has also thrown 10 interceptions. The Browns have 13 picks, and Randall has two of them. Randall will be reading Dalton's eyes looking for another interception on Sunday.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bengals LB Hardy Nickerson Jr. is likely going to start in place of Preston Brown, lost for the season with a knee injury. Nickerson played every defensive snap against Baltimore but also was among those who struggled the most against the run.
FAST FACTS: BROWNS QB BAKER MAYFIELD (rookie) completed 17 of 20 (85 pct.) for 216 yards with 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 151.3 rating in Week 10. Is only rookie QB in NFL history with 150+ rating on 20+ pass att. Aims for his 5th in row with 2+ TD passes. Has 176 completions, 1,984 pass yards & 13 TD passes, all most among rookie QBs. ... RB NICK CHUBB (rookie) set career-highs with 176 rush yards & 209 scrimmage yards in Week 10. Had 2 TDs (1 rush, 1 rec.) in Week 10, incl. 92-yard TD run, longest rush TD in Browns history & 2nd-longest by rookie in NFL history (BOBBY GAGE, 97 yards in 1949). Aims for his 3rd in row with rush TD & has TD in 3 of his past 4. Ties for 2nd among NFL rookies with 5 rush TDs. Ranks 3rd in NFL averaging 6.2 yards per carry (min. 50 att.). ... RB DUKE JOHNSON JR. had TD catch in Week 10. Has 13 catches for 109 yards & 3 TDs in his past 2. ... LB JAMIE COLLINS SR. had 9 tackles, TFL & FR in Week 10. Is 1 of 3 in AFC (DARIUS LEONARD & TAHIR WHITEHEAD) with 70+ tackles (71) & 7+ TFL (7). ... BENGALS QB ANDY DALTON passed for 211 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs & rushed for 29 yards last week. In his past 6 vs. Cle., has 1,442 pass yards (240.3 per game) with 15 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 131.8 rating. Aims for his 7th meeting in row with 110+ rating. ... RB JOE MIXON had rush TD last week. Has 3 rush TDs in his past 3. ... WR A.J. GREEN has 426 rec. yards (106.5 per game) & 3 rec. TDs in his past 4 vs. Cle. ... WR JOHN ROSS had TD catch last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... DT GENO ATKINS has 3 sacks in his past 3 meetings. ... DE CARLOS DUNLAP has 3 sacks in his past 4 & 6 sacks in his past 8. ... Rookie S JESSIE BATES has 10+ tackles in 3 of his past 5. ... S SHAWN WILLIAMS had 11 tackles & INT in Week 11. Has 10+ tackles & INT in 3 of his past 4. ... Rookie DE SAM HUBBARD has sack in 2 of his past 3.
PREDICTION: The Bengals can turn any game into a street fight and Mayfield may be all too willing to oblige rather than keep his cool. Not sure if that is good or bad for Cleveland.
OUR PICK: Bengals, 24-21