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NFL Thursday Night Preview: Browns Stumble into Matchup Against Bumbling Bengals

Thursday Night Football features a divisional battle between the Bengals and Browns. What can we expect out of Baker’s Browns and Burrow’s Bengals?

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NFL Thursday Night Preview: Browns Stumble into Matchup Against Bumbling Bengals

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Week 1 is in the books and the games were, well…

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For Week 2, we aren’t looking at quite the same firepower as we did in Week 1 between the Texans and Chiefs. But with both teams coming off crushing losses in Week 1, they’ll both be out to prove something on Thursday night.

Let’s take a look at the Week 2 showdown between Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Same Old Browns and Bengals in Week 1

To kick off the season, both the Bengals and Browns set out with something to prove. Cincinnati was looking to showcase their shiny new toy in Joe Burrow. In Cleveland, Baker’s Boys are hoping to demonstrate they have the talent and maturity to win now. And well, things went about as well as you would have expected…

The Bungles indeed…

Now for Cincinnati, expectations were WILDLY low. Yes, Joe Burrow was the #1 overall pick but with a team that went 4-12 last season, nobody is expecting him to tear it up right away. But a healthy AJ Green and Burrow’s mobility created a close game for a surprisingly sub-par offensive attack by the Chargers.

With the Browns, nobody expected them to beat the Ravens but this performance…

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Baker and the Browns offense looked totally inept. Granted, the Ravens defense will likely be one of the best in the NFL when the season wraps. But Baker continues to make stupid mistakes and still can’t seem to foster the longed-for connection with OBJ. For a team with this level of talent, 8 points simply isn’t going to cut it, regardless of the defense.

On Thursday night, Burrow will look to build on his solid debut and put the Bengals in a position to not rely on Randy Bullock/an iffy PI call to seal the deal. Patience will be growing thin in Cleveland and against one of the NFL’s potential basement dwellers, the Browns better come to play. The Ravens are possibly the best offense in the league but Myles Garrett and Adrian Clayborn should be able to make some plays against a thin O-line and rookie QB. But if the Browns stumble again, you can bet trade talks around OBJ will be running rampant.

Storyline to Watch – Cleveland’s Offense

While this offense’s effectiveness starts with Baker, it’s hard to look at the talent on that side of the ball and not wonder…

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$18 million a year for OBJ. $15 million annually for Jarvis Landry. $10.5 million for Austin Hooper. Over $5 million for Kareem Hunt. That’s a LOT of capital before you think about having to pay Nick Chubb.

To be fair, Game 1 was practically the preseason for these guys. They haven’t had a chance to work against game-level competition so it may take some time for them to gel. But it feels like the leash is short in Cleveland and Baker will be expected to show that he can really run an offense. Mayfield will need to cut back on the mistakes and spread the ball around. If he can do that, the Browns have the potential to make a playoff push. Which is a big if, particularly for Cleveland.

While I’m not a Baker guy, this offense performing to their capabilities would be a lot of fun for fans.

Fantasy Player to Watch – AJ Green

For the past few years, AJ Green has been battling injuries, including an ankle injury that kept him out of 2019. But in Week 1, Green was targetted 9 times, pulling in 5 grabs and nearly making the game-winning TD in the 4th quarter. With that kind of target volume, Green has the potential to return to true WR1 status. While I anticipate Cincinnati feeding Mixon in the run game, particularly on a shortened practice week, Green could help to keep Cleveland’s D-line honest and provide Burrow opportunity to work downfield. Facing a mistake-prone secondary, Green could hit his projections on one big play.

Keep an eye on his usage and targets – if it’s similar to Week 1, Green will start to solidify WR2 status in your lineup.

Ryan grew up outside of Boston in Waltham, MA watching the Pats, Celtics, Sox and Bruins. Despite now living in the vastly inferior sports city of NYC, he remains a die-hard Boston sports fan and is often "that guy" in the bar ridiculing NY sports. Ryan works in tech and is the Co-Founder and President of the recently incorporated Emergent TheaterWorks in NYC, a non-profit theater company focused on producing new and underdone works.

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