Browns-Bengals: Don's Game Preview

Can Joe Haden make THAT big a difference for the Browns defense?

Could one player make that much of a difference?

Sadly, no.

Well… maybe?


He's really good.

OK, but he's just a cornerback.

Please excuse my muddled mind. When obsessing over the Cleveland Browns, the space between my ears is a very dark and confusing space.

Joe Haden is back for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In the last four games in which he was suspended for using a banned substance, the Browns lost all four and allowed 274.3 yards passing in each game.

Could Haden's return end the Browns' 11-game losing streak? Me thinks his return does not guarantee the Browns an automatic victory Sunday. The great game of football relies on too many players to perform.

Cincinnati didn't perform last Sunday. The Bengals enter the second installment of the Battle of Ohio off a game in which they lost to the Miami Dolphins at home 17-13.

The Bengals were stagnant on offense. Andy Dalton threw two interceptions. A.J. Green was held to 7.2 yards per catch. The Bengals finished with only 80 yards rushing.

Compare that to the Bengals 34-27 win over the Browns on Sept. 16. While the Bengals also rushed for just 80 yards, Dalton threw for more than 300 yards and wide receivers not named A.J. Green — Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins and Brandon Tate — combined for 193 yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches.

Which brings us back to Haden. No doubt he will be locked on Green for a majority of the game. Statistically, Green is among the best receivers in the game. In the first matchup with the Browns last month, they were without Haden in Cincinnati. Green got his (seven catches for 58 yards and a touchdown). Last week, Victor Cruz secondary (five catches for 50 yards and three touchdowns) torched the Browns and two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens duo of Anquan Bolden and Torrey Smith combined for 15 catches for 228 yards.

Does the Bengals running game with Green-Ellis scare you? I didn't think so. The Browns pass defense needs to finally slow down the opponents passing attack. If the Browns can repeat the Dolphins defensive effort, the Browns offense just may have enough for a victory.

Brandon Weeden's interceptions are concerning, but he's making plays. You can't say that about a Browns quarterback in a long, long time. The turnovers need to be eliminated, that's a no brainer. Consider, in the four games since his opening-day debacle against the Philadelphia Eagles, Weeden is 100-167 passing (59.9 percent complete) for 1,170 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

"Offensively, we made a lot of positive adjustments going forward from that Eagles game," Weeden said. "I think we took care of the football (against the Bengals Sept. 16). We didn't hurt ourselves, and we did some things to move the ball down the field without going backwards. That was kind of a game we kind of found our identity a little bit. I think that's one thing that we kind of gained some confidence from going forward from that game. Hopefully we can repeat it."

Hopefully Richardson can repeat his performance against the Bengals, as well. In the first meeting, Richardson rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.

"I'm pretty sure (the Bengals) are going to try to game plan around me and they are going to try to do everything they can to stop me," Richardson said. "That's when Brandon (Weeden) comes into play, that's when (Greg) G-Little comes into play, that's when a lot of our guys with different talents come into play. (Chris) Ogbonnaya, that's when he comes into play. So when people come in and try to just take me out, we've a lot more talent out there."

With Haden back, the talent level has slightly increased. Will that be enough to push this team toward a victory? It can't hurt.

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