Cincinnati, Ohio - Entering the fifth week of the NFL season and the Browns and Bengals are playing a game that has more meaning that being a rivalry game.
The Cleveland Browns at 3-1 and Cincinnati Bengals at 2-2 have hovered at the top of the AFC Central Division since week one.
Getting off to a quick 2-0 start, the Bengals have lost two in a row. Flaws in their defense have been exposed, as the Bengals defense has yielded almost 200 yards a game on the ground the past two-weeks.
The offense has staggered against the likes of the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers after an efficient, winning performance against the vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense.
The Bengals are 2-2 for a reason. They are capable of moving and controlling the football and the defense can play much better than it has recently shown.
Sunday, the Bengals will face a team that is committed to running the ball with rookie running back James Jackson carrying the load. The Browns' running game has been effective enough to keep the clock moving and keep the defense off the field.
The Bengals haven't been able to stop the run and the Browns will attempt the run the football.
The plan for the Bengals is to pressure, load the box and force Tim Couch to beat them. This past week the Browns have placed an increasing amount of focus on throwing behind the linebackers and safeties that move into the box. Additionally, the Browns believe that they can be efficient running the ball and have planned to test the Bengals secondary.
Look for the Browns to challenge the Bengals early in the passing game, very possibly on the first play of the game. But the least, early if they are not successful with the run when Cincinnati loads up to stop it.
The return of Dennis Northcutt could provide some interesting matchups in the three and four receiver sets. On film, some tendencies in the Bengals defense that the Browns have noted as possible significant advantages for the receiving corps in the scheme.
There are some concerns about the pass rush the Bengals will generate from the linebackers. The trio of Steve Foley, Brian Simmons, and Takeo Spikes are the strength of the Bengals defense.
The Browns are expecting Cincinnati to come out and attempt to establish the run. Corey Dillon hasn't been satisfied with the touches he has received the past two-weeks and the Bengals have stumbled once they have had to rely on throwing the ball.
Defensive keys for the game are: Contain Dillon, pressure Kitna, 25% success third-down defensive efficiency, avoid the big play.
Offensive keys for the game are: Must run the football, keep Couch vertical, no turnovers, 45 % success on third down, enter third down needing four yards or less for the first down.
The Bengals have won their last five games played at Paul Brown Stadium.