The Cincinnati Bengals have been struggling in recent weeks and find themselves in an early hole on the season. They have to get back on the wagon when they host the 0-6 Cleveland Browns this week.
The Bengals dropped to 2-4 after another losing performance in Week 6. Although they gave the New England Patriots a good fight and even led in the third quarter, they couldn't hold on and the Patriots pulled away for the 35-17 victory. The Bengals have now lost four of their last five games and, aside from a dominant Thursday night win over the Miami Dolphins, they haven't looked too impressive this season. They've reached 20 points in only two games, and those are coincidentally the only times they've won.
Once again, Vontaze Burfict is getting negative headlines in Cincinnati. In just his third game back since serving a three-game suspension to start the year, Burfict was caught stomping on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, earning himself a $75,000 fine. Burfict has now racked up nearly $1 million dollars worth of fines in his NFL career, and it doesn't seem like he'll be changing his style any time soon. That's a problem for the Bengals, but Burfict is still one of their best defensive players, so they'll likely keep giving him more chances.
Another concern for Cincy is a running game that's stagnated, ranking just 24th in the league with 89.8 rushing yards per game. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have been a lethal one-two punch in the past, but they're struggling to get anything going this year. In addition, the loss of Tyler Eifert has been a huge blow to the Bengals offense. Fortunately for them, Eifert is practicing again this week, after a back injury delayed his comeback from ankle surgery. A.J. Green is still playing like a superstar receiver and Andy Dalton has been pretty good, but the Bengals have some clear weaknesses that need to be corrected if they don't want to fall further behind in the AFC North.
The Browns are the only team left in the NFL without a single win, but it's not for lack of trying. Head coach Hue Jackson inherited one of the most talent-poor rosters in the league, but he has them playing hard and staying competitive most weeks.
Jackson had to deal with a comical amount of quarterback injuries this year, with Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown going down in the first two weeks. Thankfully, third-round rookie Cody Kessler is playing surprisingly well. In four games, he's completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 865 yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Terrelle Pryor is really taking off now that he's comfortable in his new receiver role, although he's battling a hamstring injury that makes him questionable this week.
The Browns essentially wrote off the season before it began, but Jackson's getting something worthwhile out of the talent at his disposal, which should boost confidence that he's the right man to lead this multi-year rebuild. That first win has to come sooner rather than later, and the Browns should be motivated to get it on the road against a Bengals team still looking for its identity.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Place: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Online: Sunday Ticket