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Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals Prediction and Preview

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals Prediction and Preview

Browns, Bengals meet in Cincinnati with both AFC North teams looking to rebound

The Bengals will host the Browns on Sunday afternoon in a big AFC North contest. Cleveland has won five of the last six meetings, including both tilts last season against their division rival. Both of them were shootouts that saw Baker Mayfield throw a combined seven touchdown passes to Joe Burrow's six. Also, both games were one-score affairs in the fourth quarter.

The Browns (4-4) are coming off a pitiful 15-10 home loss to their division rivals, the Steelers, finishing up a 1-2 stretch of three games at home. The offense managed a meager 306 yards, with Nick Chubb running for just 61 yards on 16 carries. Mayfield played like he wasn't 100 percent, going 20-of-31 for 225 yards and no touchdowns. The team's only touchdown came from D'Ernest Johnson, who had a 10-yard run to put them ahead early in the third quarter. The problem was that the defense gave up two touchdowns and the team fell at home to a division rival.

Cincinnati (5-3), meanwhile experienced a slight speed bump during what has otherwise been a fantastic season as the Bengals lost to the Jets despite being a double-digit favorite on the road. The defense was embarrassingly awful and gave up 511 yards and 32 first down to the Jets (and backup quarterback Mike White), who held the ball for almost 37 minutes. Joe Mixon managed just 33 yards on 14 carries and put a little more pressure on Burrow, who threw a crucial late interception that led to the loss.

Cleveland (4-4) at Cincinnati (5-3)

Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS
Spread: Bengals -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles
Cleveland is a banged-up bunch that is coming off three straight at home, so who knows what the confidence level is after a brutal loss. The Browns are 1-2 away from home and have another road tilt in New England next week. Focus shouldn't be an issue for the Browns, who have expectations to live up to after a lot of people picked them to win the division in the offseason, but it's not like everything is hunky-dory in the locker room either (see below). The Bengals should put forth a good effort at home after ending a stretch of three straight on the road with a whimper against the Jets. Cincinnati has its bye week next and doesn't have near as many injuries (or team drama) to deal with.

2. Commit to the run
Both teams probably don't think they ran the ball well enough last week. Chubb was coming off an injury, but the 16 carries were the third least that he's had this season. The 3.8 yards per carry were his worst effort of the year, but the team seemingly tried to ease him into things after missing 21 days with a calf injury. Cincinnati is seventh in the NFL, holding teams to 94.4 rushing yards per contest. At home, they've actually been worse, allowing 113. The Browns are third against the run (84.8 ypg), so we'll see many opportunities Mixon gets. He's fourth in the league with 572 rushing yards but has had two games with only 33 yards on the ground — last week at the Jets and at home on Oct. 10 vs. Green Bay. The Bengals lost that game 25-22 in overtime.

3. LSU's finest
Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer a member of the Cleveland Browns after they could not find a trade partner before the deadline. His father added fuel to the fire by putting together and sharing a video showing where Mayfield ignored his son despite being open. Beckham has been the team's leading receiver just once, back in Week 3 against the Bears. The former Giant has totaled 12 receptions on 25 targets the last five weeks with his receiving yardage total being below 25 yards four times. Although Beckham won't be in Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, that doesn't mean his "presence" won't be felt (i.e., continue to be a distraction). Meanwhile, fellow Tiger product Ja'Marr Chase is third in the NFL with 786 receiving yards on just 38 receptions. The rookie is averaging nearly 21 yards per catch and has seven touchdowns already. Cleveland's secondary has some injury issues entering this one, so Chase could have another big game while Beckham will be gone but certainly not forgotten by the Browns (or their fans).

Final Analysis

Both teams want to scrub what happened last week out of their memories. It's odd to say right now, but I trust Cincinnati a little bit more than Cleveland. Mayfield's clearly not 100 percent, and his offensive line has some injuries as well. The Bengals are the home team and the healthier one as well. The loss last week will wake them up as Burrow connects for multiple touchdown passes once again. Cincy enters its bye week on a high note.

Prediction: Bengals 31, Browns 23

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

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