Myles Garrett was singled out by Bengals QB Joe Burrow this week.
Asked Wednesday if there was anything unique the Browns have done that has allowed them to beat him in all four of his career starts against them, Burrow thought first about the Browns' three-time Pro Bowler that has tackled him quite a bit the last three years.
"They have Myles Garrett," Burrow said. "That's different from everybody else."
That's all Burrow felt he needed to say, which shows just how valuable Garrett has been for the Browns in their recent string of dominance against their AFC North rival. Garrett has six sacks against Burrow in his four starts against Cleveland, including three straight games with at least one sack.
When asked Friday about Burrow's comment, Garrett chuckled.
"He's trying to butter me up and make me blush," he said. "It means a lot. It's a great compliment from a great player. The same could be said about himself and his team. Once he came along, the team has gone in a completely different direction."
One thing the Bengals haven't done yet under Burrow, though, is beat the Browns, and the Browns can inject a heavy load of fuel into their playoff chances Sunday if they keep that fact alive. They certainly aren't lacking momentum, either, after winning their second straight game for the first time all season last week in Houston, and they have the upper hand against the Bengals this season after they defeated them, 32-13, at home in Week 8 — a game that still stands as their most complete performance of the season.
The second game against a divisional opponent, however, is usually tougher than the first due to the increased familiarity between both sides, and it's clear that stopping Garrett could be even more of a priority for the Bengals after Burrow's comment.
"That first 15 (minutes) is going to be different," he said. "They're always going to have a different plan for us, especially defensively. You can't change who you are, can't change your DNA and what you are good at. Just to be able to weather the storm of the new plans that they have for us and being able to attack them where we know they are weak."
The Burrow-Garrett battle is one reason why the in-state rivalry has heated up the last few seasons and could reach another level on Sunday. Both sides haven't played a meaningful game this late in the season with playoff hopes on the line since Burrow joined the Bengals in 2020 — their Week 18 battle in 2021 was played mainly by backups with playoff scenarios mostly settled between the two teams.
"I feel like we both have improved a lot since I've been here," Garrett said. "They've gone on to a Super Bowl, and we've gone to the playoffs for the first time in a long while. We both have been picking it up and doing better. I think that coming from the bottom and starting from the bottom and trying to scrap it out and see who is going to make it is a little bit different. I feel like those guys in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they kind of always feel like they're going to be at the top. I feel like where we are, we're trying to take over."
One team will take a step closer toward doing that with a win. The Bengals (8-4) are in second in the division but have the same record as the Ravens, while the Browns (5-7) need to continue adding to their win streak for a chance to catch them or claim a wild card spot.
But only one of those teams has Myles Garrett.
"It's your star player versus ours, and who can take each other out of the game?" he said. "The matchup's been going in our favor, but they have some stars over there, for sure."
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals
Ragland still 'acclimating'
Head coach Kevin Stefanski didn't go into deep detail as to how much LB Reggie Ragland, a seven-year veteran the Browns claimed Wednesday from the Raiders' practice squad, would play Sunday, but praised the effort he's put into learning the defense in his first week.
"He's probably still acclimating," Stefanski said. "This is a new system for him. Excited about where he is. He's very, very smart. He's done a nice job throughout this week, but want to make sure that he's continuing to understand our defense, our terminology and those types of things."
Ragland said he's ready to play whatever amount of snaps the Browns need from him, which could be a sizable amount due to the injuries that have hit the position this season. He was signed after Sione Takitaki became the third Browns linebacker to suffer a season-ending injury.
"If they need me now, I could go," he said. "I've been playing football a long time, so it's mainly finding where you fit at, understanding where the safeties are and everything comes down from that. Once you know that aspect of it, you can play hard and play fast. Whenever they call me, I'll be ready."