The Cleveland Browns know full well the challenge that awaits them when they travel to Cincinnati to face the AFC North-leading Bengals (6-4) at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.
The Browns (4-5) are a game-and-a-half behind the Bengals, who come into the game on the heels of consecutive losses for the first time this season.
“It’s an important game against Cincinnati this week,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “They’re in first place in the division, in the driver’s seat. They’re an extremely talented, well-coached team, and are playing well. This is going to be a great challenge for us, a great opportunity for us, and I expect our guys to respond. Our focus has been good through the bye week, and we’ll need to be at our best as a team.
“They’re all important. As you look back at the beginning of the season, last week’s game and the ones going forward, they’re all important, and this is the most important one this week. Our guys have had a taste of success. I think they believe in themselves. We know we have a lot of areas we need to improve on and are continuing to work on those areas. I just really like our guys’ focus right now.”
By focusing on the Bengals, the Browns are aware of the offensive weapons quarterback Andy Dalton has at his disposal. Dalton has completed 239 of 383 attempts (62.4 percent) for 2,861 yards and 18 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.
Wide receiver A.J. Green has turned 65 of Dalton’s passes into 1,013 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games, while tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have combined for 63 catches, 683 yards and two touchdowns.
And when Dalton is not passing the ball, he is handing it off to the running-back tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. The two backs have combined for 879 yards and seven touchdowns on 235 carries.
“As you look at their team, offensively, they’re very explosive,” Chudzinski said. “Andy Dalton is a playmaker, one of the top young quarterbacks in the league. They have a solid offensive line, and are really loaded at the skill positions. They have two running backs that are playmakers for them in Green-Ellis and Bernard.
“Their tight ends, Gresham and Eifert, are outstanding, and we all know about A.J. Green and the type of player he is. Marvin Jones is playing real good football for them, and (Mohamed) Sanu is as well.”
When the Browns have the football, they will contend with a Bengals defense that has registered 30 sacks for 206 lost yards and nine interceptions, in addition to eight forced fumbles, six of which they have recovered.
Cincinnati’s defense has returned three of its nine interceptions for touchdowns.
“On defense, they have an excellent scheme and personnel,” Chudzinski said. “Their front seven is outstanding. (Robert) Johnson and (Carlos) Dunlap, from the defensive end position, create a lot of issues for people. (Geno) Atkins was hurt two weeks ago, but you look at them and Brandon Thompson has stepped right in and, I thought, played outstanding against Baltimore.
“Their linebackers are an excellent group as well. (James) Harrison, (Rey) Maualuga and (Vontaze) Burfict, when you look at those guys, they’re playing great football, flying around. Maualuga was hurt and Vincent Rey stepped in last week and I thought played well.”