The Cincinnati Bengals, who opened Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, will have to deal with a short week of preparation for their upcoming home game against the in-state rival Cleveland Browns. Not that it should matter to the NFL odds makers.
That’s because, for starters, it doesn’t figure the Bengals will need to do much to prepare for an anemic Browns’ offense that failed to reach the end zone and turned the ball over four times in their 17-16 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. Browns’ rookie quarterback Brandon Wheedon was atrocious in his rookie debut and accounted for all of the Browns’ turnovers. He appeared simply overwhelmed by the speed and intricacies of an NFL defense and one week doesn’t figure to result in a huge improvement.
The lone strength of the Browns appears to be a rather scrappy defensive unit with ball-hawking tendencies, as evidenced by their five forced turnovers against Michael Vick and the Eagles, one of which was returned for the Browns’ only touchdown of the day. However, this young Bengals’ offensive unit ranked ninth in total offense last year and their two key players—quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green—figure to continue moving forward in their second NFL seasons.
The Bengals are looking to build on their 9-7 mark from a year ago that saw them earn a Wild Card berth and also put them in position for their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1981 and 1982, a rather remarkable statistic in the age of NFL parity.
As it currently stands, one position of some concern for the Bengals is the offensive line. They are starting a pair of young guards in 23-year-old Clint Boiling and 22-year-old Kevin Zeitler, and starting center Jeff Faine missed virtually all of training camp and could be slow out of the gates early in the season. However, if they can just hold their own and provide the Bengals with even a couple scoring opportunities, that will likely be enough to beat an anemic Cleveland offense and the rest of the Browns.