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What to Watch For, Presented by Arby's

Posted Sep 25, 2013

The Cleveland Browns play in the Battle of Ohio Sunday when they host the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium.

After two weeks on the road at Baltimore and Minnesota, the Cleveland Browns return home for Sunday’s Battle of Ohio against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns return to FirstEnergy Stadium at 1-2 following last Sunday’s last-minute 31-27 come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at the H.H.H. Metrodome.

Following wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, the Bengals continue their pursuit of something they have not done in their history: make the postseason in three consecutive years.

Last year, the Browns and Bengals split their two meetings, as both teams protected home-field advantage.

The Bengals earned a 34-27, come-from-behind victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Sept. 16, and the Browns returned the favor with a 34-24 win on Oct. 14. The win over Cincinnati was the Browns’ first of the season, and set off a streak where they won two games in a three-week period.

The Browns are 37-42-0 all-time against the Bengals, including a 23-16-0 mark in Cleveland.

As this year’s game unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:

Defensive back Joe Haden. The fourth-year defensive back has matched up against some of the fastest and biggest down-the-field threats at wide receiver in the first three weeks of the 2013 season, namely, Miami wideout Mike Wallace and Baltimore’s Torrey Smith, and has managed to keep them out of the end zone.

Haden will get another test from Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.

Last week, Haden tied for second on the team with eight stops in the win over the Vikings. He has made 10 total tackles and defended three passes in the first three games of the season.

Haden has defended 50 passes in 45 games, an average of 1.111 per game since the 2010 season. That is the second-most of any NFL player with 50 pass breakups since the start of the 1994 season.

Linebacker Barkevious Mingo. After registering a sack in his NFL debut two weeks ago, Mingo followed that up with another quarterback sack in his second game. After getting cut down at the line of scrimmage, Mingo popped up and registered a sack of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.

Mingo is second only to Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah in sacks among rookies.

Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant. The Browns’ third free-agent acquisition this past offseason has paid instant dividends for defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Bryant has registered 3.5 sacks in his first three games, the sixth-most in the NFL through three weeks of play. Bryant has recorded at least a half sack in seven straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Since Dec. 6, 2012, Bryant and Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston lead the league with 7.5 sacks.

Tight end Jordan Cameron. Over the first three games of the regular season, the third-year Browns tight end has emerged as a favorite target of Cleveland quarterbacks.

Cameron has caught 20 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to leading the Browns in all three categories, Cameron set the franchise record for the most receptions by a tight end over the first three games of a season.

Cameron currently ranks second in the NFL in scoring by non-kickers (24 points), seventh in receptions and 11th in receiving yards. He is second among tight ends in receptions and yards, and tied the team mark for the most touchdowns in one game by a Browns tight end.

Cameron needs four catches to pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for the most receptions by a Browns tight end in the first four games of a season, and 99 yards to pass Kellen Winslow II for the most receiving yards  through four games.

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Following a two-game suspension, Gordon returned with a vengeance in last week’s win over the Vikings. He caught 10 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown.

With 100 yards Sunday, Gordon would be the first Browns player to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Braylon Edwards in 2006. Another 10-reception game would tie Gordon with Newsome for the most receptions by a Brown in back-to-back games.

Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer. In his first start as a Brown, Hoyer completed 30 of 54 attempts for 321 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions in last week’s win over the Vikings.

With 300 yards against the Bengals, Hoyer would become the first Browns quarterback to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Brian Sipe achieved the feat during his MVP season of 1980. With three touchdown passes, Hoyer would be the first Browns signal-caller to reach the mark since Derek Anderson in 2007.

Hoyer is seeking to become the Browns’ first quarterback to win his first two starts since Mark Rypien in 1994.

Browns offensive linemen Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. Thomas has started each of the 99 games and taken 6,054 consecutive snaps since being selected by the Browns with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Thomas ranks third in consecutive starts among active NFL offensive linemen.

Mack has started 66 straight games, and begun 4,129 consecutive plays, for the Browns.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton has completed 71 of 106 passes (67.0 percent) this season with five touchdowns against three interceptions.

Last year, Dalton led Cincinnati’s offense and completed 329 of 528 pass attempts for 3,669 yards and 27 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. Despite being sacked 46 times for 229 lost yards, Dalton carried an 87.4 quarterback rating and rushed for four touchdowns.

Green. Green leads the Bengals with 19 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns, while tight end Jermaine Gresham (15-128) and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (13-127) also have double-digit catches.

Green was Dalton’s favorite target in 2012, catching 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. His longest reception, a 73-yarder in a 38-31 win at Washington on Sept. 23, 2012, was a trick-play pass thrown by Sanu.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict. An undrafted free agent signing of the Bengals last year, Burfict sets the tone for Cincinnati’s defense.  He has registered 28 total tackles, including 21 solo stops, and returned his lone interception 12 yards in the first three games of the year.

The Browns continue their three-game home-stand against the Buffalo Bills on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football next week. The Bengals return to Paul Brown Stadium with a game against the New England Patriots next Sunday.

CONNECTIONS

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is a native of Toledo, Ohio, and graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School.

Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton was a second-round pick of the Bengals in the 1983 NFL Draft. He played in 147 games, started 99 and appeared in Super Bowl XXIII with the Bengals. He later served as Cincinnati’s defensive backs coach (1997-2000) and safeties coach (2001).

Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi was a defensive assistant for the Bengals from 1997-2002, and later served as their assistant defensive backs coach from 2003-2010.

Browns offensive line coach George Warhop began his coaching career as a student-assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati in 1983.

Browns offensive lineman John Greco (Youngstown/Boardman H.S.), Hoyer (North Olmsted/St. Ignatius H.S.), defensive linemen John Hughes (Gahanna/Lincoln H.S.) and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (Youngstown/Cardinal Mooney H.S.), and practice-squad outside linebacker Justin Staples (Lakewood/St. Edward H.S.) are Ohio natives.

Hughes played football for the University of Cincinnati, and Kitchen played at Kent State University.

Bengals tight end Alex Smith spent the last three seasons with the Browns, where he caught 28 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown in 29 games as a tight end and fullback.

Cincinnati running back Cedric Peerman spent part of the 2009 season on the Browns’ active roster and practice squad.

Quarterback Josh Johnson spent the final week of the 2012 season with the Browns.

Bengals defensive tackle Larry Black (Cincinnati/Wyoming High School), linebackers James Harrison (Akron/Coventry H.S.) and J.K. Schaffer (Cincinnati/LaSalle H.S.), running back Daniel Herron (Warren/Harding H.S.), punter Kevin Huber (Cincinnati/Archbishop McNicholas H.S.), kicker Mike Nugent (Centerville), and wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher (Toledo/Central Catholic H.S.) are Ohio natives.

Practice-squad offensive lineman Reid Fragel (The Ohio State University), Harrison (Kent State), wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (University of Toledo), Herron (Ohio State), Huber (Cincinnati), Nugent (Ohio State), and Sanzenbacher (Ohio State) played college football in Ohio.

Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is a native of Tiffin, Ohio.

Cincinnati’s assistant linebackers/quality control coach, David Lippincott, is a native of Cincinnati. After graduating from Archbishop Moeller High School, he went to the University of Dayton. Lippincott’s coaching career began as an assistant at Bluffton College from 2000-02.

Chip Morton, the Bengals’ strength-and-conditioning coach served as Ohio State’s assistant strength-and-conditioning coach from 1985-86.

Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese served as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Miami (Ohio) University from 1996-97.

Bengals assistant special teams/quality control coach Brayden Coombs is a native of Cincinnati. After graduating from Colerain High School, he played collegiately at Miami (Ohio).

MEDIA

Fans can watch Sunday’s game at 1 p.m./ET on local CBS affiliate, WOIO-TV 19. Marv Albert (play-by-play) and former NFL MVP Rich Gannon (color analyst) will call the action.

The game is also available along the Browns Radio Network with Jim Donovan, former Browns left tackle Doug Dieken, and Jamir Howerton on the call.

Sports USA Radio Network will call the game with Larry Kahn (play-by-play), former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker (color analyst) and Troy West (sideline) on the call on Sirius XM Channel 158.

“What to Watch For” is Brought to you by Arby’s. Try the new Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich today. Tender brisket, smoked at least 13 hours, and ready when you are. Arby’s. Slicing up Freshness.