The battle for Ohio kicks off the Week 9 schedule of the NFL season. In the AFC North, these two teams find themselves on opposite ends. The Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) are coming off a major win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have the division locked up barring a terrible stretch from the “Red Rifle.”
In Cleveland, football isn’t going too well (as usual). Currently 2-6, playoff hopes have faded and calls for Manziel to take over are getting louder. As painful as this season has been, it is nothing Browns fans aren’t used to. With the NBA season having begun, Cleveland natives can direct their attention to the Cavaliers to remind them there is still one respectable professional sports franchise in their city.
But with that being said, this game still offers plenty of intrigue. The Browns always put up a tough fight against the Bengals, and Cincinnati surely doesn’t want to lose their first game at home to an AFC North foe on national television. Here are the players to watch during Thursday Night Football:
Andy Dalton – Quarterback
He has been a revelation this year and is starting to distance himself from his horrible reputation. Of course, bad Andy did emerge at times last week against the Steelers, but it wasn’t enough to lose the game. He’s poised to have a huge performance against the Joe Haden-less Browns. But as we’ve learned with Dalton, none of this matters until we see how he performs in the playoffs.
A.J. Green – Wide Receiver
Green has the biggest ceiling of all players in this match-up. The Browns’ star corner is out and the team may also be without Donte Whitner. Look for Green to stuff the stat sheets again after his 11 catch, 118 yard and one touchdown performance last week against Pittsburgh.
Jeremy Hill & Gio Bernard – Running Backs
It is starting to look like the Cincinnati Patriots. No one has a clue which running back will have the better game, but maybe it’s for the best. The team is undefeated and their running back committee is a big reason why. You can’t rely on either of them, but they will certainly play a key role in bringing home a Cincinnati victory.
Gary Barnidge – Tight End
What an amazing story. “Big Play Barnidge” is establishing himself as one of the most fun players to watch in the league. He seems to score every week, no matter who he is facing. Look for that to continue this week in a game when Cleveland will have to throw early and often.
Johnny Manziel – Quarterback
Josh McCown is obviously injured and the Browns delayed playing Manziel against the Arizona Cardinals because of his off-field issues. This may be the week ‘Johnny Football’ gets some significant playing time. Even if McCown starts, Manziel should see some time behind center. And he should, the kid has skills.
Duke Johnson – Running Back
The Browns need to feed this youngster more. Coming out of Miami, Johnson showed big play potential. It is time to bench Isaiah Crowell and give Duke the ball. This could be his break-out performance.
Prediction: CLE (17) – CIN (31)
Photo Credit: The Football Girl