Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Rich Gannon)
SERIES: 72nd regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series 36-35. Cincinnati has a 6-4 edge in games at Cleveland Browns Stadium since it opened in 1999. Most historic meeting between these two teams in Cleveland was in 2007 when the Browns won a 51-45 shootout despite a club record six touchdown passes from Carson Palmer.
PREDICTION: Bengals 23-15
KEYS TO THE GAME: Browns QB Derek Anderson is getting the start over Brady Quinn in large part due to his stronger arm. Cleveland has just four completions of 20-plus yards and none of 40-plus, which is allowing opponents to sit on the ground game. The Browns also need to shore up their run 30th-ranked defense. Bengals RB Cedric Benson is third in the NFL with 293 rushing yards and ran for a career-high 171 in Cleveland last year. Meanwhile, QB Carson Palmer needs to find his rhythm early; he has a 68.8 passer rating in the first half of games this season compared to 83.2 in the second.
FAST FACTS: Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco has averaged 166 receiving yards in his past two games in Cleveland. ... The Browns have a nine-game losing streak.
--LB Rey Maualuga was back on the practice field on Thursday after missing Wednesday due to an MCL sprain in his left knee which happened against Pittsburgh. He is expected to play and start on Sunday.
--CB David Jones had his first full participation practice of the season and will be available on Sunday. He had been out since the second day of training camp with a broken foot.
--DT Tank Johnson did not participate for the second straight day due to a foot injury. If he doesn't play, Pat Sims would take his place.
--CB Johnathan Joseph (foot) did not participate for the second straight day due to a foot injury. If he is unable to play, Geoffrey Pope would take his place.
--OT Andre Smith (foot) remains out, but he is finally out of the walking boot. Thursday marked the one month mark since the first-round pick was injured which was two days after signing his contract.
--RB Jamal Lewis, battling a hamstring injury, worked with team trainers on Thursday.
--K Phil Dawson missed practice again because of a right calf injury. He is not expected to play against the Bengals.
--DE Corey Williams was held from practice with a knee injury.
--DE Kenyon Coleman was limited with a groin injury Thursday. The injury prevented him from practicing Wednesday.
--OL Floyd Womack missed practice with an ankle injury. Hank Fraley will likely make his second straight start at right guard.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Antwan Odom has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month following his seven sack month.
The six-year veteran also led the Bengals defensive line in tackles with 16 (13 solos), and he had two passes defended.
"I came here to win games and that's what we're expecting to do," Odom said. "I think we're doing good and our team is finally coming together."
Odom saw a lot more attention during last week's game against the Steelers, when he was double teamed and chip blocked.
It doesn't get any easier this Sunday as Odom will be matched up against Cleveland All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas.
"He's a real good player and I look forward to going against him," Odom said, "He's a little more athletic and he's a strong guy. He's been in the league three years and pretty much has his legs under him."
The last Bengal to win an AFC Player of the Month was Carson Palmer, who received the offensive honor in September, 2005. But the last defensive player to win the honor was David Fulcher, for his performance in Decenber, 1989. Tim Krumrie also won in November, 1988.
Odom is also adjusting to life with a newborn around the house. His wife, Brooke, gave birth to the couple's fifth child Memphis last Friday. The couple chose the name Memphis after the character Memphis Raines, which was played by Nicholas Cage in "Gone in 60 Seconds."
All the commotion surrounding the Browns' offensive problems and changing quarterbacks after three games has masked the problems on a defense that has allowed 34, 27 and 34 points since the season started.
The Browns are allowing an average of 184.3 yards rushing a game. Only two teams -- Houston and Tampa Bay -- are worse. The Texans are giving up 204.7 a game and 6.27 a carry.
"We have to tackle better," outside linebacker David Bowens said. "A lot of the problem with the long runs is missed tackles. If we can correct ourselves first we can stop the other team."
The run defense this year statistically is worse than last year when teams averaged 151.9 a game during the entire season. The average this season might drop over the next 13 games, but the alarming number is teams have already rushed for eight touchdowns, matching the total of rushing touchdowns scored against the Browns in 2007. Teams scored 16 times on the ground against the Browns last year.
"It's fundamental football and it's something that we work on," coach Eric Mangini said. "We worked on it during training camp. We worked on it last week. We'll work on it every single week of the season. It's like blocking. Tackling, blocking, throwing the ball, catching the ball - those are core fundamentals that you have to do well.
"You have to be able to leverage the ball carrier. You have to be able to wrap up the ball carrier. You have to understand where your help is, where you fit in those things, and then when you get to the point of contact you have to execute. It's like the snap; it's fundamental football and we have to get better at fundamentals."
The Browns have no major injury issues on defense, so the same players that whiffed on Adrian Peterson (64-yard touchdown run) in the opener, Correll Buckhalter in Denver (45-yard touchdown run) and the Ravens in Baltimore are likely going to be the same ones trying to tackle Bengals Cedric Benson on Sunday in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Mangini has not ruled out lineup changes, however.
The Ravens' Willis McGahee scored on a seven-yard run and on a 15-yard run and Ray Rice scored on a nine-yard run. They would have been touchdowns in flag football too, because they ran to the end zone untouched each time.
"I look at who's practicing the best, who's executing the best, who's making the least amount of mental errors, and who's making the strongest case to help us that week," Mangini said. "You have to be able to show the players that if they perform at a level then they have a chance to play more or to get bumped up and, vice versa, get bumped down."
Benson has rushed for 293 yards on 66 carries and scored two touchdowns over three games.
Browns vs. Bengals: Game Scout
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