Browns vs. Bengals: a prediction

    As disappointed as I am with Kevin Stefanski's opening game performance (which I think is in large part attributable to a poorly run first training camp), I am picking the Browns to defeat the Bengals this Thursday night by a score of 31-24.

    I still believe that Stefanki was the right hire for this team and that he is smart enough to learn from his mistakes.

    Some things that I think we'll see:

  • A 100th anniversary celebration of the NFL's birth in Ohio.   The broadcast will have a special segment commemorating that the first NFL game was played on September 17, 1920 in Canton, Ohio.

  • Stefanski making a point of getting the ball in OBJ's hands a couple of times early in the game on quick slants or wide receiver screens.  This should settle OBJ down and get the monkey off Baker's back right away.

  • More play calling that leans on the bread and butter of Stefanski's offensive philosophy -- the Browns will pound the football with ample usage of Chubb and Hunt running behind the wide zone scheme, which will allow play action to open up for some big shots downfield.

  • Generous use of quarterback boots and running back and tight end screens to give Baker simple, first-read completions.   Forty touches between the running backs is a good goal with another 8-10 targets for the tight ends. 

  • Baker with the green light to use his feet as a safety valve when he's not seeing it.  He will convert a couple third downs on the ground.

  • Three step drops from under center largely eliminated from the play sheet.   Baker's lack of height gave him trouble locating his receivers downfield and finding throwing lanes on Sunday on shallow drops that worked with Kirk Cousins.  This week may see a greater reliance on the pistol formation used by Kyle Shanahan when he was here to help his short quarterbacks gain depth, while still allowing running back flexibility in the wide zone   The pistol to run wide zone was no stranger to the Freddie Kitchens offense.  

  • The defensive front four shining bright.   The Bengals offensive line is substandard and Garrett, Ogenjobi, Richardson and maybe even Jordan Elliot can have a day if the Bengals are put in third-and-long situations.  Maybe the search party will even find Vernon in time for him to make a play this week. 

  • Zone coverage schemes from the Browns secondary.  The Browns will want to make sure that the defenders do not turn their back to Burrow, who like most young quarterbacks likes to use his feet when his primary read break down and the pocket starts to collapse.   Jackson exploited the zone coverage schemes the Browns were forced to run against him, but I don't expect Burrow to be at Jackson's level in recognizing the holes in coverage just yet. 

  • A tight game until late in the third quarter.  Ultimately the Browns' relentless rushing attack will break down the Bengals' defense.   The Bengals will score a late touchdown to make score look less comfortable than it actually was.

  • Everyone feeling a lot better about the direction of the team heading into next week's game against the Washington Football Team after the win and looking forward to a mini bye week.

    If the Browns can find a way to get to 2-2 after their first four games, they should start to get some players back -- especially in the secondary -- and hopefully can start to gel.    If they trip up on the next two opponents, however, things could really start to unravel.
Browns vs. Bengals: a prediction Browns vs. Bengals: a prediction Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 8:51 PM Rating: 5

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