(Sports Network) - Just when the Cincinnati Bengals needed a predictable pick-
me-up, enter the Cleveland Browns.
The AFC North rivals complete their 2012 regular-season series on Sunday at
Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the visiting Bengals will try to make it two
in a row this year and five straight overall against the winless Browns, who
are one loss away from a franchise-record 12 straight.
Cincinnati logged 33 points and 411.7 yards per game while winning three
consecutive games in weeks 2, 3 and 4, then had a season-low 298 yards and
turned it over three times while losing, 17-13, at home to Miami last week.
"The offense didn't play well across the board," quarterback Andy Dalton said.
"It's tough sitting here where we are. We had our chances, but we couldn't get
Dalton threw for 234 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions against the
Dolphins, shortly after completing 24-of-31 passes for 318 yards and three
scores in a 34-27 Week 2 win over Cleveland.
The Browns get cornerback Joe Haden back after he completed a four-game
suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs with
a positive test for the stimulant Adderall.
He'll return to face Cincinnati's Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green, who had 58
receiving yards and scored once in the first 2012 matchup with Cleveland, sans
"Perfect timing," Haden said. "At least when I come back, I can try to make a
statement going against somebody in the division like him. I feel like once I
come back and just do my thing, then I'll just be back."
The Bengals are 4-for-25 on third downs over the last two games and have
converted only 24.6 percent all season, second from last in the league.
"There were a couple 2nd-and-2s and 3rd-and-2s that we've got to convert
to first downs," coach Marvin Lewis said. "That will keep us moving the
football down the field a little better."
After losing running back Bernard Scott with a knee injury last week, the
Bengals will lean on holdovers BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brian Leonard and Cedric
"It's unfortunate for (Scott), but we'll have to move on," offensive
coordinator Jay Gruden said. "I can just call the game the way it is and
hopefully Cedric and Brian Leonard, with some more opportunities, will give us
some different looks and BenJarvus the rest on the sideline when he needs it."
Green-Ellis gained 14 yards against Miami and is averaging 3.3 yards per
carry, third-worst in the league among backs with 60 attempts. But he rushed
for 75 against the Browns, who've allowed 4.7 per carry overall after being
gashed 243 rushing yards in a two-touchdown Week 5 loss to the New York
Cleveland lost a 14-point lead, allowed 502 yards and committed three
turnovers and 10 penalties against New York.
The Browns, who've not begun 0-6 since 1999, are winless since defeating
Jacksonville on Nov. 20. The last time Cleveland lost 11 in a row, it ended
the skid with a 35-23 home win over Cincinnati on Nov. 23, 1975.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden had a season-best 322 yards and two scores
in his first game with Cincinnati. But he's tied for the NFL lead with nine
"I think he made progress," coach Pat Shurmur said. "There was some general
efficiency there and there were a couple bad plays that he'd love to have
back. How he responds to all that, that's this week's challenge as we get
ready to play the Bengals."
Fellow rookie Trent Richardson has 303 yards and had his only 100-yard game
against the Bengals. Still, Cincinnati has held its last two opponents to an
average of 68.5 rush yards.
Richardson also leads Cleveland in receiving yards (169) and could continue to
branch out if wideouts Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin miss more time
with balky hamstrings. The Browns may also miss linebacker D'Qwell Jackson
(concussion) and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (leg).
Cincinnati leads the all-time series, 42-36, and has won 13 of the last 16
games. The Bengals won, 27-17, when they last met in Cleveland in September
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Cornerback Haden and wide receiver Green meet for the third time as pros after
two matchups in college while the former played at Florida and the latter at
The 6-foot-4 Green had five catches for 91 yards and three catches for 50
yards in SEC losses to the 5-foot-11 Haden's Gators in 2008 and 2009 in
Jacksonville, and has combined four just four catches -- but 151 yards and two
touchdowns -- in two matchups since both became professionals.
"It's a matchup that we like," Dalton said. "A.J., we feel like he is talented
and we can put him against anybody."
The respect is evident, however. Green referred to Haden as among the best
corners he's faced, joining the ranks of the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis and
Houston's Johnathan Joseph.
"He knows what I do and I know what he does," Green said. "He knows my
strength. Just a battle, we are just going to be out there grinding we are
going to see what happens. Definitely have respect for him because he's a
great player in this league. You have to respect him."
Based solely on talent and weaponry and 2012 momentum, the Bengals win this
one convincingly. But the Browns are beginning to get a feel for successful
football, albeit not for a full 60 minutes at any one time. On their home
field, against an in-state rival, the prolonged plummet ends here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Browns 24, Bengals 21
The Sports Network