The Cincinnati Bengals will try to end a four-game losing streak to the Cleveland Browns without their top receiver, but the Browns will be missing some key players as well.
Ja’Marr Chase is unavailable for Monday’s first “Battle of Ohio” matchup in Cleveland because of a hip injury. The Browns are without at least three starters as well, as tight end David Njoku, right guard Wyatt Teller and Denzel Ward have been ruled out.
The Bengals are moving forward with hopes of collecting their first AFC North win of the season after dropping games to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. In the process they would get their first win in the “Battle of Ohio” since 2019.
Here are five things to know about the matchup:
1. Moving on without Chase
The Bengals did not put Chase on injured reserve with hopes he could be back within the four-game period he would be required to miss if placed on that list. In the meantime, though, they have a big hole to fill with their most explosive receiver out.
Quarterback Joe Burrow still has Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but the Bengals have just two catches from outside the three starters at the wide receiver position. Tight end Hayden Hurst and running back Joe Mixon could see more targets in the passing game, and there will be more opportunities for Mike Thomas and perhaps Trent Taylor in Chase’s absence.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that bring different things to the table, and so, we can rotate whoever in there and guys can specialize at different things,” Trent Taylor said. “So I think we have a lot of things that we can throw at defenses, and I think we got a good game plan going into the game.”
2. Keeping the flow going
Cincinnati’s offense had its best performance of the season last week in a 35-17 win over Atlanta and would like to keep that rhythm going.
Burrow said the biggest issue the past two years against the Browns has been turnovers, so that once again is an area of focus this week. Cleveland cornerback Denzel Ward had a pick-6 on the first possession in the first meeting last year, and that set the tone as Cincinnati finished with three turnovers.
Ward is missing a third straight game in concussion protocol, so he won’t be a factor this time. Backup Greedy Williams is questionable because of illness, and starting right cornerback Greg Newsome also is questionable because of an oblique injury. Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is questionable with a knee injury.
“Everything is moving fairly slow for me out there, and obviously we’re jelling as a unit,” Burrow said. “Offensive line is playing great, receivers are playing great. Joe Mixon and the backs are doing a great job in pass protection in the pass game as well as getting dirty yards in the run game so we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
3. Tough task for O-line
The Bengals offensive line has allowed just 11 sacks over the past five games after recording 13 combined over the first two games, but will face two dynamic pass rushers coming off the edge -- Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Garrett has six sacks and Clowney adds 1.5 over four games, and both are capable of wrecking an opponent’s passing game. Garrett has been playing against the right tackle the last two games, so he likely will be matching up with La’el Collins, and Clowney will be lined up against Jonah Williams.
“We’re gonna have our work cut out for us,” center Ted Karras said. “They are very two dynamic players on the edge, and I think their defense goes through Myles. But you know, it just comes down to performance and technique and I’m very confident our tackles have been playing great and we’re gonna have to go in there and execute and not only just pass but run the ball and be a balanced attack, play complimentary football and hopefully leave at 5-3.
4. Stopping the run
Nick Chubb leads the league with 740 yards rushing and has been a tough match for the Bengals, even when they had a top 5 run defense last year. When he’s not in the game, Cleveland has another solid option with Kareem Hunt.
The Bengals know they have to shut down the running game to stop the Browns. If they can forced quarterback Jacoby Brissett to lean more on the passing game, he’s susceptible to turnovers and isn’t always consistent in his efficiency.
Brissett loses a big part of his offense with Djoku out, but will still has wide receiver Amari Cooper as an option on the outside. Cincinnati’s defense still hasn’t given up a touchdown in the second half of games this season.
5. Reinforcements back
Linebacker Logan Wilson is back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him last week against the Falcons, and the Bengals also dodged a bullet with defensive end Trey Hendrickson after he suffered a stinger in Week 7 but returned to full participation in practice Saturday.
Defensive tackle Josh Tupou remains out with a calf injury, and D.J. Reader remains on injured reserve, so the Bengals continue to rely on their depth inside on the defensive line, as they face a tall task in the run defense. Rookie Jeff Gunter is back from an ankle injury.
Monday could be a big night for rookie cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who is in line for his first start with Eli Apple doubtful because of a hamstring injury. Taylor-Britt made his NFL debut last week and was expected to rotate with Apple again Monday, but the injury makes it more likely he is asked to do even more.
Bengals at Browns, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, ESPN 2, 700, 1290, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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