Thursday Night NFL: Bengals, Browns meet with division lead on the line
'The Battle for Ohio - Round 1' takes place hard by the Ohio River.
The AFC North rivals will play Thursday night in Cincinnati. Cleveland has come on in recent weeks with some stellar play, resulting in a 5-3 record. Cincinnati is just ahead of them in the standings at 5-2-1. The winner will join the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) atop the division standings.
Since their bye week at the end of September, the Browns have won four of their last five games. Included in that stretch was an impressive 31-10 win at home over the Steelers.
The Bengals had their bye week at the same time, but haven't seen the same results. Cincinnati was hammered by the New England Patriots back on Oct. 5 and was shut out by the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 19. In between those two losses, they had a chance to beat the Carolina Panthers in overtime but kicker Mike Nugent missed a field goal, resulting in a tie.
By the way, the Bengals have been involved in two of the NFL's last four tied games. Cincinnati's last tie before Oct. 12 was a 13-all affair with the Philadelphia Eagles back on November 16, 2008. Then-Bengals kicker Shayne Graham missed a field goal near the end of overtime in that game.
As their 2014 records indicate, these two Ohio franchises are somewhat evenly matched. Both teams average over 350 yards of total offense per game, broken down by 240 yards passing and over 110 yards rushing.
Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer has thrown for over 2,000 yards and ten touchdowns in the team's first eight games.
One of Hoyer's main targets in the passing game is wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, a former Bengal who has 39 receptions for 504 yards. Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis knows all about Hawkins' talent.
"We know Andrew and how much heart and what a quality person and player he is. He’s leading them in receiving, and I don’t have to look at the program and see what number he is when I see him run. He’s doing the dirty work for them. He’s cutting off linemen on the backside. He’s doing all the things we know Hawk can do," Lewis told Bengals.com Monday.
On the other side, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has over 1,800 yards passing with eight touchdowns. Dalton will have to be aware of Cleveland cornerback Tashaun Gipson, who leads the NFL in interceptions with six so far this season.
Kevin Jones of ClevelandBrowns.com reports on a couple of trends, going into the first NFL game this week.
The Browns haven’t beaten an AFC North team on the road since 2008. The Bengals are 13-0-1 in their last 14 home games.
The Bengals and Browns kick off at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. You can watch the game on the NFL Network.