KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Bill Macatee, Steve Beuerlein
SERIES: 68th meeting. The Bengals lead, 34-33, but the Browns lead 20-13 as the home team. The Bengals have won the last five meetings, their longest win streak in the 38-year-old series. Cincinnati's 2006 sweep of the Browns included wins of 34-17 at Paul Brown Stadium and 30-0 at Cleveland. For the first time since 1993, the Bengals have the lead in the "Battle of Ohio" series.
PREDICTION: Bengals 30-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: Bengals RB Rudi Johnson has topped 125 rushing yards in four of the past five meetings and has nine touchdowns in his past nine games against the Browns. If Cleveland can't contain the ground game, it stands little chance of holding up against Bengals WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for four quarters. If QB Carson Palmer is given time, he should rack up big numbers. ... QB Derek Anderson gets the start after the Browns shipped Charlie Frye to Seattle. His No. 1 task is protecting the ball against a Bengals defense that forced six turnovers in Week 1. That means handing it off to RB Jamal Lewis and hoping he can move the chains. The offensive line must create a push against the Bengals' front seven because Anderson lacks mobility and will turn the ball over if routinely stuck in third-and-long situations.
KEY INJURIES: Bengals: RT Willie Anderson (heel) is practicing and should start. Browns: P Dave Zastudil (back) is improving but still limited; OLB Antwan Peek's (foot) status is uncertain.
FAST FACTS: Palmer has led 10 career victories after the Bengals have trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter. ... Lewis has topped 100 rushing yards in eight of 11 career games against the Bengals, all while with Baltimore.
--DE Robert Geathers as named the GMC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 1. Geathers had four total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in the Bengals' 27-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Geathers contributed to three different turnovers that led to the three Bengals' touchdowns with his first-quarter fumble recovery, his third-quarter sack and his fourth-quarter interception.
--CB Deltha O'Neal was involved in a strange incident Thursday in which a woman and her son were bitten by a Rottweiler dog at O'Neal's suburban Cincinnati home. O'Neal drove a woman and her 3-year-old son to Anderson Mercy Hospital Thursday morning in suburban Cincinnati after they were bitten by a Rottweiler dog at his home, the Clermont County sheriff said.
O'Neal, 30, apparently wasn't home when Jasmie Risco, 23, and her son, Jaiden, were bitten on the legs and buttocks by the pet. Sheriff's deputies responded to the subdivision and questioned neighbors, who said a black Cadillac SUV that turned out to be registered to O'Neal had left 20 minutes earlier.
Deputies found Risco at Anderson Mercy Hospital, where she and her son received medical treatment after O'Neal took them there, the sheriff said. The dog has been quarantined.
O'Neal did not practice Thursday because of a knee injury. If he could not start Sunday at Cleveland, rookie Leon Hall would get the start opposite Johnathan Joseph.
--TE Nate Lawrie, who played Monday night and was waived, was signed to the Bengals' practice squad.
--WR Antonio Chatman, trying to make the most of his second chance with the Bengals, practiced Thursday for the second day in a row despite a nagging hamstring problem.
--C Eric Ghiaciuc, the starter, did not practice Thursday because of a thumb injury. He missed part of the opener with a neck injury. Alex Stepanovich is his backup.
--CB Leigh Bodden was limited in practice Thursday with a groin injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday.
--DB Daven Holly practiced lightly Thursday after sitting out Wednesday recovering from a mild concussion. He has not been ruled out for Sunday.
--P Dave Zastudil cannot punt without holding back as he recovers from an oblique muscle pull, but he is improving. The injury forced him to sit in the opener.
--LB Antwan Peek worked out on his own inside the training facility Thursday. He wore a walking boot on his right foot to keep swelling down. Coach Romeo Crennel said the plan is to rest it as much as possible before Sunday.
--WR Joe Jurevicius is wearing a wrap on his left arm because of an elbow injury. He plans on playing against the Bengals.
--RDE Robaire Smith was back at practice Thursday. He was excused Wednesday to be present for the birth of his twin sons, Robaire and Romaire.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Landon Johnson is the one player with the surname Johnson on the Bengals who gets the least attention.
There's Rudi, the running back. There's Rudi's blocking back, fullback Jeremi. Then, of course, there's Mr. Media, wide receiver Chad Johnson.
But linebacker Landon Johnson might be just as valuable as the rest of them.
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh predicted in the preseason who the breakout player would be for the Bengals. His call: Landon Johnson.
"He made me look like a prophet," Houshmandzadeh said following the Bengals' 27-20 thrilling win over Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium.
Johnson was part of a defense that forced six turnovers by the Ravens. He recovered two of the fumbles, returning one 34 yards for a touchdown.
"Whoever knocked the ball out of the quarterback's hands did the hard job. All I did was catch the ball and run," Johnson said.
Johnson also played a role in the game-winning interceptions by defensive tackle Michael Myers. Myers dove to catch Kyle Boller's tipped pass. Johnson tipped the ball.
Johnson finished with a team best 11 total tackles.
"He's a really quiet dude, but since he got here he's been balling. He goes under the radar. Nobody talks about him. He doesn't say anything," Houshmandzadeh said. "He doesn't get a lot of credit. From Day One ... he makes plays for us every game."
Johnson, a third-round pick from Purdue in 2004, has led the Bengals in tackles two of his three seasons.
He is one of several defensive players, a list that includes free safety Madieu Williams and fellow linebacker Caleb Miller, whose contracts will expire after the season. They will be unrestricted free agents in March. There's a sense around Paul Brown Stadium that the Bengals had better try to sign Johnson to a long-term deal before he hits the open market. He's a solid player, an excellent teammate who fights through pain, and his high character demeanor means he will only make the organization look good off the field.
If there is one thing the Browns have mastered over the years it is moving on, turning the page and forgetting about the last game.
Their triple dose of AFC North opponents in the first month of the season continues Sunday when they play host to the Cincinnati Bengals in Cleveland Browns Stadium. They had invigorating practices Wednesday and Thursday after putting the 34-7 opening loss to the Steelers behind them. They play host to the Ravens Sept. 29 after playing in Oakland next week.
"I've been in this position before," running back Jamal Lewis said. "It's a loser's mentality to think 'Here we go again.'
"I've won games, I've lost games. I've been to the Super Bowl. I've had bad seasons. You can't count yourselves out. This team didn't play like we prepared all training camp. We know we can play better. It was only one game."
In terms of putting the last game behind them, coach Romeo Crennel is expecting a quick turn-around from starting safeties Brodney Pool and Sean Jones. Pool played well in preseason and practice throughout training camp, but he suddenly failed to be able to tackle in the Steelers game. He and Jones had coverage on three of the touchdown passes thrown by Ben Roethlisberger, and now they have to deal with Carson Palmer throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"We could have played better. We could have played a lot better," Crennel said. "Anytime you give up four touchdown passes, that's not a good sign. There are some things that they will do better, as far as doing their responsibilities and their jobs first before they try and help other people out."
Health issues that weren't concerns in the opener could affect this game. Defensive back Daven Holly suffered a concussion against the Steelers and might not be ready to play against the Bengals and their high-powered pass offense.
The Browns are already thin in the defensive backfield after waiving Jereme Perry last week to clear a roster spot for punter Paul Ernster, who was signed because Dave Zastudil had a back injury. Zastudil is improving and has been doing some light punting, but Ernster is likely to remain on the roster until Saturday just to make sure Zastudil can punt.
If Zastudil can play, then Ernster would be released and Perry could be re-signed. The Browns are still a man short in the secondary because Gary Baxter is not ready to play. He is recovering from tearing both patellar tendons last year, and although he is practicing, he is not ready for team drills.
Just as important is the health of outside linebacker Antwan Peek. Peek is wearing a walking boot on a sprained right foot. He played last week and was part of a defense that gave up over 200 yards rushing to the Steelers. That was better than the game in December when the Steelers ran over the Browns for 303 yards, but it still is no way to win against the Bengals and Rudi Johnson. Peek says he will play.
Chaun Thompson would start if Peek cannot play. No matter who is in the front seven, Crennel wants to see better tackling.
"If you give up 200 yards rushing, however you give it up, you can't say that they are playing well," Crennel said. "They can play better. They played better in the first half than they did in the second half. That's something we have to try and get fixed so defensively we can play good for four quarters."
BROWNS BUZZ BENGALS 51-45
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