The Cleveland Browns are set to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in a Week 11 AFC North showdown. Cleveland is 4-5, but they are tied for second in the division after besting the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9 prior to their bye week. The Bengals have the division lead at 6-4 but have already lost to the Browns once, and also fell to the Baltimore Ravens in their last matchup.
Cincinnati won't be able to hold on to the division for long if they can't beat the teams within the AFC North. They lost to Cleveland on the road, in Week 4, but have the home-field advantage this time around. They've lost their two last games overall, and both were on the road.
We'll talk about both teams below, starting with the home team.
Meet the Bengals
The Bengals have went to overtime three times this season. It worked out in their favor in Week 6, as they bested the Buffalo Bills by a field goal, but they've fallen to the Miami Dolphins and the aforementioned Ravens in overtime over their past two games.
Cincinnati does have some quality wins on its record though. They took down the New England Patriots in Week 5 and the Detroit Lions in Week 7. But slow starts and a lack of execution in the clutch has hurt them big time. They scored 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Ravens to force overtime, and then did absolutely nothing once overtime began.
The Bengals have the No. 7 pass offense, No. 7 pass defense and No. 9 rush defense. They are a legitimate playoff contender at this point, but faltering against the Browns and other divisional opponents down the line could easily knock them out of the lead and into a battle for a wildcard spot.
Meet the Browns
It's pretty crazy how good the Browns have been given the injuries they've faced. Jason Campbell, of all players, has revitalized the Cleveland offense and is taking them to heights they surely would not have reached with Brandon Weeden under center.
A lot of things still have to go right for this team to make the playoffs, but the fact that they're in the discussion is great. Most figured they were banking on next season and the season's after given that they traded away Trent Richardson near the beginning of the season.
Campbell completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens in their last outing. Cincinnati has a strong defense, though, so if Campbell falters, Cleveland's defense will need to come up big. That's something they've been able to do, as they boast the No. 10 pass defense and No. 6 rush defense in the NFL.
Local Takes: Bengals
Over at Cincy Jungle, they note that this isn't a "huge" game for Cincinnati, but that a win is still important for the division:
The Bengals don't need a statement game, just a win. The bye week awaits afterward and is sorely needed to give this battered team some rest and recovery time before the stretch run to the postseason. They must man-up for three hours and take care of business before they are permitted to exhale though. A loss would make for a needlessly close race for the division. Cleveland is a team on the rise, to be sure, but they are not built as soundly as Cincinnati.
Local Takes: Browns
Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature thinks the Browns could take advantage of Cincinnati's offensive issues:
I expect the Browns' defense to dial up some more creative blitzes, exploiting Cincinnati's recent offensive struggles and the lack of success they had against us in Week 4. Those short-field situations will benefit Jason Campbell, who has been making good reads to move the chain and put points on the board. This will be a similar game as the one in Week 4, with a slightly higher score.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Giovani Bernard is on pace to generate 1,157 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns.— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) November 13, 2013
Five of SB Nation's experts picked the Bengals to hold at home in this one, while Stephen White is the dissenting opinion and believes the Browns will pull off the unlikely upset.
The Bengals opened up as significant 6.5-point favorites for this matchup, though the line has narrowed slightly throughout the week. Cincinnati was favored by 5.5 points at the lowest, according to OddsShark.