The Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Cleveland Browns in an important AFC North matchup on Sunday. Cincinnati is 2-1 and coming off a huge win over the Green Bay Packers, while the Browns are 1-2 after earning their first win in Week 3 over the Minnesota Vikings.
Cincinnati's win was obviously more impressive, given that the Vikings were winless heading into that game (and still are, of course), but there's one important thing to note about Cleveland's win: quarterback Brian Hoyer led them there. He replaced Brandon Weeden due to the former's injury and played well enough to get them the win.
Meanwhile, the Bengals took a wild win over Green Bay to move into first place in the division. Let's take a look at both teams below:
Meet the Browns
Weeden was held out of the Week 3 matchup with an injury, so Hoyer got his first start for Cleveland. He threw for 321 yards, going 30 for 54, with three touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also had three interceptions, but he managed to win the game, and that earned him his second-straight start, whether Weeden is healthy or not.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon made his season debut in Week 3 after serving a two-game suspension, and flashed what Cleveland was missing out on in Weeks 1 and 2: big play ability. Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jordan Cameron had 66 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
The Browns have a good defense already. If they can get the offense to minimize the turnovers and get their weapons in Cameron and Gordon working consistently, they could do big things this season.
Meet the Bengals
Cincinnati's win over Green Bay was the definition of a crazy game. They led by 14 points, eventually trailed by 16 points, and then rallied to take a 34-30 win. That is to say, they led 14-0 before allowing Green Bay to score 30 unanswered points in the second and third quarters, before fighting back to score three-straight touchdowns to win it.
The Bengals suffered a disappointing loss in Week 1, but have looked great since then. They bested the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and this game is very important if they're to win the AFC North. Andy Dalton has been playing well, as he has led the Bengals to the No. 11 passing offense in the league, while the defense has ranked 14th against both the pass and the run. They are a complete team, but they can't falter against the Browns, or underestimate them.
Local Takes: Browns
Over at Dawgs By Nature, they suggest that this Browns defense is different than before, and so long as they remain motivated, they can keep the team in games:
The defense can obviously improve in some areas, but we are not witnessing the "same old Browns" on that side of the ball. My only worry about the defense is that they will grow tired of seeing the offense's inability to score and will break down late in games or later in the season. When this unit is motivated and playing for something, they are a force.
Local Takes: Bengals
Anthony Cosenza of Cincy Jungle believes the Bengals need to avoid mistakes and not fall into a "trap game" against Cleveland:
However, at some point, as it it did in Chicago, these mistakes will come back to haunt the Bengals. This game has the potential to be a close nail-biter, but if the Bengals want to make sure they rope in this important game, they will need to clean up the mistakes. Cincinnati simply cannot rely on a huge amount of turnovers by Cleveland, even though they have committed eight in three games.
Sniffing double-digit penalties and multiple turnovers on the road isn't a recipe for success in a bruising AFC North game. The last thing the the Bengals need after having one of their biggest wins in the Marvin Lewis era is to take a step back by losing a game that most figure that they should win.
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Based on Ludwick's comments, I'm thinking that Cincinnati is continuing to shift into a football town.— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) September 26, 2013
All five of SB Nations' experts went with the Bengals this week. Apparently they're not big on Brian Hoyer!
Cincinnati opened as 3.5-point favorites on the road, but the line moved even further in their favor as the week went along, according to OddsShark. Some books have them as 5-point favorites.