KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 66th meeting. The Browns lead the series 33-32. Their lead in the Battle of Ohio is precarious. The Bengals have beaten the Browns three straight times, which means Romeo Crennel is looking for his first victory over Marvin Lewis.
2006 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 30th (24th rush, 30th pass); defense 22nd (27th rush, 16th pass). Bengals: offense 28th (10th rush, 27th pass); defense 15th (22nd rush, 16th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns have to find a way to protect QB Charlie Frye, whether it's by running the ball more effectively or improving their pass-blocking. Frye was sacked five times in the season opener, while RB Reuben Droughns received just 11 carries. To improve those numbers, Cleveland can't afford to fall behind by more than a touchdown in the first half. The Bengals' biggest concern is a letdown following their big victory in Kansas City. Cincinnati has the superior talent, and will look to take advantage of it by pressing Cleveland with the no-huddle offense. The Browns are a bit beat up and undermanned in the secondary, especially with the Bengals expected to get WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (heel) back in the lineup.
FAST FACTS: Browns: In 65 previous meetings, Cleveland leads the total score by just nine points. ... Of WR Braylon Edwards' 34 career receptions, 24 have resulted in first downs. Bengals: Are 18-1 under coach Marvin Lewis when having a positive turnover margin. ... Are 22-16 in home openers.
- WR Joe Jurevicius will not face the Bengals with injuries to his ribs.
Jurevicius did not start against the Saints, but he is a dependable guy
Charlie Frye will miss. The Browns' other receivers have not shown the
consistency Jurevicius has.
- WR Dennis Northcutt started against the Saints and will stay in the
starting lineup against Cincinnati. Northcutt had a key drop in the opener -
something he seems to do too often. Northcutt has shown he is more than
capable as a third receiver, but gets lost in the regular offense.
- CB Leigh Bodden will be assigned Chad Johnson duties. Johnson said
nobody has ever stopped him, but in the off-season he said Bodden did the
best job of anyone. That's probably enough for the Browns to give primary
- QB Charlie Frye ran for his life against New Orleans, something he does
not want to do. Frye ran because he was forced to, which means his
protection broke down or he was holding the ball too long. He said he'll
continue to run, but would rather work within the offense and stay in the
- RB Reuben Droughns figures to get a lot more carries in game two than he did in the opener. Droughns had 11 carries, a total that is nearly inexplicable. The team knows that to win it has to run the ball, and Droughns is the team's primary back. Look for him to get his 20 carries in Cincinnati.
- WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a starter, remained probable Thursday with a
heel injury but missed practice for the fifth consecutive time. He was
replaced in the lineup by Chris Henry at Kansas City and could be again
Sunday at home against Cleveland.
- LB A.J. Nicholson was added to the injury report Thursday as
questionable with a hamstring injury. He was the only one of eight
linebackers on the active 53 not to dress Sunday at Kansas City.
- DT Sam Adams, coming off a 22-snap Bengals debut, missed practice
against Thursday but remained probable for the Browns with a knee injury.
There's little doubt Adams would be ready for Sunday.
- CB Keiwan Ratliff is likely to return punts for the Bengals Sunday
without Antonio Chatman, a wide receiver who is out with a groin injury for
the second week in a row.
- LT Levi Jones (sprained ankle) missed practice for the second day in a
row Thursday but remains probable for the Browns. Jones is expected to start
- CB Deltha O'Neal (knee) practiced Thursday after missing Wednesday. He is probable, though he could again split time with rookie cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Quarterback Charlie Frye was sacked five times last Sunday in the season opener against New Orleans. What's next? Cincinnati, which got seven sacks in its season opener against Kansas City.
"They freaking bring it," tackle Ryan Tucker said of the Bengals' defensive line.
He then called Justin Smith (three sacks) one of the best all-around defensive ends in the game, and defensive tackle Sam Adams is as quick off the ball as anyone in football.
The Browns probably didn't need to see this kind of line in Week 2. The team's offensive line struggled badly against New Orleans, and now may face a tougher challenge.
The Bengals' defense is an aggressive, up-the-field unit that will no doubt attack the Browns the same way the Saints did.
How do the Browns counter? By doing what they didn't do Sunday: Run the ball.
Reuben Droughns got just 11 carries, so the Saints never had to respect the run. The linemen want Droughns to get more, and they feel strongly that if he does, that will do more to slow down Cincinnati's pass rush than anything.
The most anonymous starter on the star-studded Cincinnati offense, tight end Reggie Kelly, might be one of the most appreciated - at least inside team circles. Sometimes, the only attention Bengals tight ends get is for their lack of receptions in the passing game.
But Kelly, along with his backup, the even more anonymous Tony Stewart, plays a big part in the high-flying passing game.
Kelly blocks. He blocks well. He doesn't complain about touches and catches. He's earned an esteemed position as an honorary offensive lineman.
Now in his fourth year with the Bengals, Kelly is the most unsung of heroes. Kelly has 44 receptions in 44 games - his 44th coming last Sunday at Kansas City in his 44th Bengals game - but his statistics don't accurately measure his many contributions.
But teammates' statistics reveal what Kelly does.
"The dirty work," offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said of Kelly.
Rudi Johnson has set consecutive single-season franchise rushing records. Kelly blocks for Johnson on run plays to the strong side, where the tight end is.
Wide receiver Chad Johnson this season is aiming to become the first player to lead his conference in receptions four seasons in a row. Kelly protects the quarterbacks who throw to Johnson.
Last season, the Bengals set a single-season franchise record by allowing just 21 sacks. Those numbers are the ones on Kelly's resume and the ones of which he is most proud.
"I've never been a guy who wants to complain or break up any kind of chemistry the team is having," said Kelly, playing in the final season of a four-year contract. "I just want to do what they ask me to do.
"I want to do my job in a way to protect Carson (Palmer) and give him time to
hit T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) and Chad because, to me, that brings me a lot of
happiness to see those guys do well. I like to see Rudi get 100-plus yards."