As far as predictions go, I did pretty well during the Cincinnati Bengals’ Monday night loss. Sure, the Baltimore Ravens blew the hinges off the game early in the second half, but in terms of their recent matchup history, that was a complete anomaly and anyone else would’ve predicted a close affair.
Other than that, I successfully called Ravens DT Haloti Ngata getting his first two career sacks against the Bengals. I also predicted that Cincinnati DT Geno Atkins would terrorized the Ravens’ offensive line.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis racked up 91 yards and the Bengals’ only touchdown, and, once again, the team that went into the half with the lead came out on top.
In short, I’ll take it because talking purely out of my ass has afforded me far less in the past. So, what’s the next natural step after converting on a few bold promises?
Go even BOLDER! (Typically I would then bold the word, “bolder” to reinforce the meaning, but my editors wouldn’t appreciate the superfluous, silly formatting.)
The Cleveland Browns are rolling into Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday,Who Dey Nation, so here’s how we’re going to break it down: instead of telling you what history and past statistics dictate might happen, I’m going to straight-up let you know what will happen on Sunday!
**FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS**
1. Browns KR/WR Joshua Cribbs Will Not Have a Game-Changing Kick Return for a TD.
Does anyone else notice that even the most celebrated kick and punt returners have a short shelf life when it comes to league-wide recognition. Remember how crazy and pent-up we all got when Dante Hall or Chicago Bears WR Devin Hester would set up to receive a kick? Now, they just seem like flashes in the pan. I’m not saying it’s right; truthfully, these guys should feel more immortalized than they are considering they are responsible for some of the most electric, memorable plays in recent NFL history.
Alas, the same thing has happened to the former standout Browns flier, Cribbs. Of course, the fact that he has only recorded one punt return since 2009, when he racked up 3 kick returns and a punt run-back, hasn’t helped either. The chief reason why Cribbs will be neutralized on Sunday is that he’s never returned a kick against the Bengals in his entire career despite doing so at least once against Cleveland’s other AFC North foes, the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cribbs won’t complete the hat trick Sunday.
2. WR A.J. Green Will Hit the Century Mark in Receiving and Score His First 2 TDs This Season.
This prediction is so academic that it barely qualifies as bold. Still, the NFL has never been a place for the best laid plans so I still consider this going out on a limb. Earlier this week, the Browns secondary lost their rising star prospect and former Top 10 selection, CB Joe Haden to a 4-game suspension without pay after Haden tested positive for performance-enhancing substances. It was already hard enough to name half of the defensive starters for Cleveland, now it’s 9% harder (think about it).
On the other end, Green looked very impressive last week against the much-better Ravens secondary. He used his long stride to fly past the defensive front seven and boxed out defensive backs nicely on his way to a more-than-modest 70 receiving yards. In his only two games against the Browns, Green averaged 117 receiving yards and reeled in one touchdown. If Haden was a factor Sunday, I would be apprehensive about this prediction, but now that it’s Green against the next man up, it’s a no-brainer.
3. Cincinnati DE, Carlos Dunlap Will Play; He and Geno Atkins Will Combine For 3 Sacks.
Right off the bat, this is a shaky prediction. Dunlap was withheld from Cincinnati’s Monday night opener due to a knee injury, but all reports from Bengals camp point to Dunlap suiting up for the home opener. If Dunlap and Atkins line up together on Sunday, it will be trouble for the Browns, especially since they’re on the road. Atkins and Dunlap have recorded a sack in each of their 2 home games against Cleveland.
If that trend continues, that means 2 sacks guaranteed. The extra sack will come from Atkins, who has recorded 4 sacks in his last 5 games, even though he has a tough match-up against the tandem of Pro Bowl tackle, Joe Thomas and veteran stalwart, Alex Mack. Despite the more-than-capable Browns offensive line, QB Brandon Weeden will hit the turf early and often because he simply looks uncomfortable under center; so much so that it makes one wonder if Cleveland put their hopeful franchise QB in too soon.
4. If BenJarvus Green-Ellis Gets 20+ rushes, He Will Score At Least 1 TD and the Bengals Will Win.
Another academic prediction; all you have to do is look at the stats. Teams that give Green-Ellis at least 20 carries are undefeated (6-0). Granted, some of you will bring up the fact that he played in the high-octane New England Patriots offense for 4 years, but those six games came against very tough opponents including 2010 victories against the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts and the Jay Cutler-led, NFC Championship-bound Chicago Bears.
In these 6 games, the Law Firm has scored a rushing TD in 5 of them and recorded an average of 97.5 yards on the ground. To me, this seems like Cincinnati’s best bet if they want to control the tempo and impose their will on the Browns’ defensive front seven.
5. The Bengals’ Final Score Will Be Higher Than Brandon Weeden’s QB Rating.
Poor Brandon Weeden. He has the tools and the maturity, but there are only a handful of Pro Bowl-calibur signal callers that could lift this unit above .500. Weeden threw 4 interceptions and logged a 5.1 QB rating last week and it’s not going to get any easier for him, especially throwing against Bengals CB Leon Hall.
Of Hall’s career 15 interceptions, 8 have come against AFC North opponents and half of those have come against the Browns. Hall loves to turn it on for the in-state rival and he shouldn’t have much difficulty outplaying a receiving corp that only caught 12 of their total 35 targets last week (34.3% completion rate).
I expect Weeden to turn in an approximate 21.0 rating this week, so you can lock the Bengals in for at least three touchdowns if you’re betting overs and unders this weekend. Not that any NFL fan would condone that . . .
FINAL: Cleveland 13 Cincinnati 23
Top Performer: WR A.J. Green: 7 receptions, 111 yards, 2 TDs