Number Crunch: Browns-Bengals

What if they had an NFL game and nobody cared? Well, Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders would bring a bushel of stats anyway and, along with your friends from the OBR, we'd slog through it. Let the slogging begin.

DVOA Matchup: Bengals at Browns

Clash of the Midgets!

Ugh. When that guy who used to be known as Art Bietz agreed that I should put something statistical together about every Browns game down the stretch, I looked upon it as a journey with one big pothole. Week 16, Bengals at Browns. Is this like an Architectural Digest article about a dilapidated garden shed tied to a one-room house with the front yard washer-dryer combo, or what?

(And Browns fans, before you get on me for making fun of YOUR team, keep in mind that I live in Seattle. Things are tough all over!)

Ah, well … it's an opportunity to be both positive and creative. And in the spirit of the latter, let's start with a few happy things.

Six Things That Don't Completely Suck About the Browns

1.     The Browns rank fourth in Special Teams DVOA, which is certainly a testament to Josh Cribbs. They're also above average in field goal and punting value, according to our specific numbers.

2.     Their pass defense has gone from 24th in DVOA in the first half of the season (Weeks 1-9) to 11th since Week 10.

3.     Cleveland has the ninth-best defensive DVOA on second down, and the eighth-best on third-and-short.

4.     The Browns have put up good Defensive DVOA numbers against the pass in their last two games -- -48.8% against the Titans (remember, Defensive DVOA is better when it's negative) and -15.5%against the Eagles. They put up solid numbers against the run, as well.

5.     The Browns rank seventh in yards per carry to right tackle and right end.

6.     Among running backs with 99 or fewer carries, Jerome Harrison ranks seventh in DYAR and second in DVOA. Since DVOA is a per-play stat, it's a more suitable stat for players who have lower workloads.

Six Things That Don't Completely Suck About the Bengals

1. Through Week 15, the Bengals have committed the NFL's fifth-fewest penalties with 77 (The Browns are about in the middle with 96).

2. Their run defense has shot up from 18th in DVOA in the first half of the season (Weeks 1-9) to third since Week 10.

3. Cincinnati has the 10th-best first down defense, according to DVOA, and the seventh-best on third-and-short.

4. The Bengals have put up positive passing DVOA numbers in two of their last four games -- Week 12 against the Steelers and last week against the Redskins. Remember that DVOA adjusts for opponent, which is why Ryan Fitzpatrick could go 20 of 37 for 168 yards, one touchdown and one interception and have good adjusted numbers -- he did it against the best pass defense in the NFL.

5. The Bengals rank sixth in yards per carry allowed off right end.

6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh ranks 21st in DYAR among receivers; he's by far the most efficient skill position player on either team. By contract, Ocho Cinco has a DYAR of Ocho Siete, and Braylon Edwards is still waaaaaaay down at the bottom. That's what happens when you're one of the league's most targeted receivers, and you have a Catch Rate of 40 percent.

2. . re also above average in field goal and punting value, according to our specific numbers.Overall Efficiency

TEAM

TOTAL
DVOA

RANK

LAST
WEEK

OFFENSE
DVOA

OFF.
RANK

DEFENSE
DVOA

DEF.
RANK

S.T.
DVOA

S.T.
RANK

CIN

-28.0%

28

30

-16.8%

30

8.7%

19

-2.4%

25

CLE

-13.1%

24

24

-10.6%

27

6.6%

16

4.2%

4





Cleveland defense vs. Cincinnati offense

TEAM

OFFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST WEEK

PASS
OFFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
OFFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CIN

-16.8%

30

30

-15.4%

27

-18.8%

32

TEAM

DEFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
DEFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
DEFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CLE

6.6%

16

19

11.9%

16

2.3%

22

The Bengals are coming off an upset in which they inexplicably beat the Washington Redskins, 20-13. An offense that hadn't scored a touchdown in 12 quarters saw Carson Palmer replacement Ryan Fitzpatrick throw for one touchdown and run for another. The good news for Cleveland's iffy run defense is that the Bengals can't pound the rock at all. Not only tdo they have the worst rushing DVOA in the NFL, it's 2.3 percent worse than the 31st ranked Rams. Running back Chris Perry is averaging 2.6 yards per carry and has the worst rushing DVOA of any back with starting-number reps. Put it this way: When he came in, Cedric Benson was a significant improvement. Yikes. Cincinnati also ranks dead last in offensive Adjusted Line Yards, and they average 3.523 yards per carry up the middle (almost a yard shorter than the league average of 4.21). If Shaun Rogers can't shut that part of the Bengals game down, shock would be the appropriate reaction.

Cincinnati's formerly combustible aerial game isn't much better these days. His Chadness has pretty much mouthed himself out of elite production, and T.J. Whosyourmama is in a contract year. Cleveland's weather should take care of the rest. Honestly, this should be a revival game for a Browns defense that's really been suffering lately.

Cleveland defensive DVOA vs. receivers

TEAM

vs. #1 WR (Rank)

vs. #2 WR (Rank)

vs. Other WR (Rank)

vs. TE

(Rank)

vs. RB (Rank)

CLE

0.4%

16

42.8%

31

-33.6%

4

-3.7%

13

-8.8%

7

The aforementioned turnaround in pass defense has a lot to do with cornerback Brandon McDonald's sudden and surprising "On" switch. After flirting with the bench at the season's halfway point, he's come around and made some quality plays. His three interceptions in his last three games are impressive, but I've been impressed with his improvement in coverage since the Colts game, Picks don't tell the whole story.

Cleveland offense vs. Cincinnati defense

TEAM

OFFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
OFFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
OFFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CLE

-10.6%

27

26

-16.6%

29

-3.7%

20

TEAM

DEFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
DEFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
DEFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CIN

8.7%

19

22

24.0%

27

-5.8%

10


Ken Dorsey may only throw three-yard lawn darts, but at least he won't have to worry about pressure this week. The Browns rank sixth in offensive Adjusted Sack Rate, while the Bengals are 31st in defensive ALY -- only the Chiefs have fewer sacks. The question, of course, is what Dorsey will be throwing to - the Braylon Edwards who's dropped 150,000 balls, or the guy who can make amazing plays? The Bengals are surprisingly good against tight ends, which could push Martin Rucker's incredible debut back a week. Would it be wrong to wish for 30-40 snaps to Josh Cribbs in the Flash formation? I think not.

Cincinnati defensive DVOA vs. receivers

TEAM

vs. #1 WR (Rank)

vs. #2 WR (Rank)

vs. Other WR (Rank)

vs. TE

(Rank)

vs. RB (Rank)

CIN

35.5%

30

19.4%

26

4.3%

24

-24.3%

4

7.5%

17

How will the game go?

To be sure, nobody's playing this game for anything but pride. The people coaching this game on both sides are playing for quite a bit more, but games featuring two really bad teams are often tougher to call than battles between behemoths. You never know when this or that underachiever will break out and give the fans a bit of hope. The Browns have more pure talent, and therefore more options, and the home field. That should make enough of a difference if nobody's warming up the U-Haul two games early.

Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for Football Outsiders, a Panelist for the Washington Post, and a contributor to the Seattle Times and Scout.com. Feel free to e-mail him here.


The OBR Top Stories