In the midst of a 1-11 season, there are not going to be many places where the Cincinnati Bengals are among the NFL's elite. In fact, a quick perusal of their Week 14 media guide eventually leads you to a section entitled "At the top of the list: Here's a look at where the Bengals rank – both individually and in team categories — among the top 10 in the NFL."
As you may imagine, the list is not long, nor is it diverse. In fact, the list is comprised of just four individual leaders and three team rankings, all of which are directly related to special teams with five of them being about the team's kick return prowess.
When it comes to kickoff returns and coverage, no team has been better than the Bengals. They are third in yards gained per kickoff return (27.6) and third in yards allowed per kickoff return (18.9).
All of the individual accolades are centered on the Bengals explosive kick returner Brandon Wilson. Wilson, who is a safety out of the University of Houston, was taken by the Bengals in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. The fun fact here is that, at the time, Wilson was only the fourth player in Bengals history to be drafted after a trade up to select him.
Wilson has paid them back handsomely for an uncharacteristic draft day move by becoming one of the elite KR's in the NFL in 2019. Wilson leads the NFL with a kick return average of 31.3 yards, has a league-best four returns of 40-plus yards and took a return against the Ravens 92 yards to the house for a touchdown. He is third in the NFL with 625 kick return yards thus far and has 16 returns of 20-plus yards, tied for second most in the NFL.
The Bengals are coming off their only win of the season, and nothing gives a team momentum like a huge kick return, especially one for a touchdown. The Browns coverage teams have been excellent under special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, and they will need to be at their best again Sunday.
"Brandon Wilson is probably having the best year out of anybody, at least in the NFL," Priefer said Thursday. "He is the best kickoff returner in our conference and certainly our division."
Cleveland has allowed just 19.9 yards per kick return so far this season, nearly a dozen yards below Wilson's average this season. Look for the Browns to mix in kicking the ball out of the end zone and hitting some high, shorter kicks to try and ensnare Wilson, the one man who could single-handedly shift things in the Bengals' favor this Sunday.
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Bengals Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey