The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 14 as they prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are five things to watch for in week 14.
1. Can the Bengals Hurt the Browns’ Playoff Chances?
The Bengals are in a position to play spoiler for the rest of the season because they are eliminated from playoff contention. Cincinnati fans can take joy in other teams’ misery as they come close to the playoffs. The Bengals have played spoiler before, most notably when they beat the Ravens and the Bills made the playoffs.
Cleveland was hyped up this offseason as a potential playoff team, but have struggled. After losing to the Steelers this weekend, the Browns have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs. Cincinnati looks a lot better after beating the Jets and a win against Cleveland would be very sweet.
2. Andy Dalton’s Protection of the Football
One of the reasons the Bengals were losing games to start the season was the amount of turnovers. Andy Dalton was throwing for a lot of yards, but was throwing too many picks. He had eight interceptions in eight games and also had six fumbles. In the game against the Jets, Dalton didn’t turn over the ball and the team won.
For the Bengals to beat the Browns, Dalton will have to turn in a similar performance. The Browns will be without Myles Garrett, so Dalton won’t have to worry about one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If Dalton can move the ball without any turnovers, the Bengals can win the game.
3. Will the Running Game Get Any Better?
For a few weeks, the running game was going well. Joe Mixon was turning in good performances and things were looking good. Against the Jets, things returned to the way they were earlier in the season. Mixon rushed for just 44 yards against the best rush defense in the league.
The Bengals have a chance to get the running game back on track against the Browns. Cleveland ranks 26th against the run this season and will be without their best defensive lineman in Garrett. If Cincinnati can get Dalton and Mixon going in the same game, the offense can take a giant step forward.
4. Giovanni Bernard’s Snaps
The lead back for the Bengals is obviously Joe Mixon. Cincinnati decided to give Giovanni Bernard a contract extension before the season though, which was surprising, as most teams view running backs, especially backups, something that can be easily replaced. Since the Bengals paid Bernard, they need to use him more than they did against the Jets.
Last week, he registered one carry and one reception. He only played 12 snaps. That is something a rookie can do, so it makes it a head-scratching decision to bring him back to the team. Against the Browns, thy need to use Bernard to spell Mixon more often. Keeping Mixon fresh should make the running game more effective.
5. Can Carlos Dunlap Keep it up?
Going into the game against the Jets, Carlos Dunlap had just 2.5 sacks on the season. He left the game with 5.5. sacks after a dominant performance. He looked like he did a few years ago and showed that he still has a lot left in the tank. Now, he needs to prove he can keep it up.
One of the biggest knocks on the Browns this season is the play of their offensive line. They built the rest of the team out well, but forgot about the offensive line. If Dunlap plays well, he can up his sack total and help his team notch another win.