AFC NORTH: Bengals hit the road vs. Browns
The Bengals believe this is their year, the one when they finally put it all together. No more excuses. No more playoff flops.
Cincinnati, which spent the summer in the spotlight on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and is being touted as a team to watch this season, has its sights on winning the AFC North and making a legitimate run at a Super Bowl championship.
A young team has earned its stripes.
“They’re special,” Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. “They’re starting to get it. They feel like they’re finally starting to get over that hump and get on top.”
It’s a long, unpredictable road to the Lombardi Trophy, and this week it takes the Bengals up Interstate-71 for their yearly visit to the Browns (1-2) in the 80th edition of the “Battle of Ohio.”
Coming off one of the most unimaginable wins in team history, the Bengals (2-1) will play five of their next seven games away from home. They had five fumbles last week and have dropped the ball seven times in three games.
“It’s something that we have to stress and know that we have to be better at because if you turn the ball over that many times, it’s hard to win the game,” quarterback Andy Dalton said.
They can’t be as sloppy against the Browns (1-2).
“Cleveland is a special place because it’s a division game on the road,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We know how difficult it is: the fans, the crowd. We know what kind of environment it’s going to be. This is a big game for us.”
For the Browns, today’s game is a chance to erase an 0-2 opening, and maybe for hometown quarterback Brian Hoyer to secure a permanent starting job. Hoyer, who began the season third on Cleveland’s depth chart, threw three touchdown passes last week in Minnesota and the Browns pulled out all the stops in getting coach Rob Chudzinski his first win.
Bengals WR A.J. Green and Haden will renew a feud that goes back to their college days.
Two of the league’s premier players at their respective positions, the Green-Haden matchup alone is worth the price of admission. Green caught seven passes for 135 yards and two TDs last year in Cleveland.
“Yeah,” Haden said. “But we won, so I got the best of it.”
BALTIMORE (2-1) AT BUFFALO (1-2): After two weak showings, the Ravens looked much more like champions in manhandling Houston last week. There’s hope Ray Rice can return to the backfield from his hip flexor. Baltimore could use a spark for its offense.
Buffalo is dealing with the growing pains of a rookie QB, EJ Manuel, and a defense that can’t stop the run. It couldn’t grab a victory last Sunday when the Jets seemed willing to hand one over.