We have no time for tricks, only treats in a primetime Halloween matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns must find a way to get a win over the Bengals, whom they have beaten in four straight games, to keep this season's playoff aspirations alive.
1. Take Care of the Football – No Turnovers
I'm putting this one at the top of the list, because frankly this team has proven that it's the most important factor in determining its ability to win in 2022. The Browns are 11-2 under Kevin Stefanski all-time when they do not commit a single turnover, and they're 2-0 this year with a clean sheet. They're 0-5, however, when committing just one single turnover in 2022 and are coming off of a game in which a single turnover led to seven Ravens points in the three-point loss. The Browns must protect the ball against the Bengals in order to secure the win — you can't give any easy points or extra possessions to the high powered Cincy offense.
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football
2. Sack, Hit, and Disrupt Joe Burrow
The Browns are 3-0 all time against Joe Burrow, and the big reason why has been their ability to generate pressure, sacks and turnovers. The Browns have sacked Burrow 12 times in those three wins, with at least three sacks in every game, including a five-sack performance in last year's 41-16 win in Cincinnati. Those negative plays, and pressure in general, are critical to slowing down Burrow, who has already been sacked 25 times, third most in the NFL (heading into Week 8). When operating from a clean pocket this year, Burrow has completed 73 percent of his passes, while averaging 8.1 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns and a rating of 106. When under duress that completion percentage drops to 50 percent and the rating to 89. Last year the Browns used nickel blitzes to get home quickly on Burrow, who likes to get the ball out in under 2.5 seconds, and former Browns CB Troy Hill had two sacks and three quarterback hits.
It should also be noted that Burrow has thrown three picks in the last two starts against the Browns and has lost two fumbles against Cleveland as well. He has a turnover in all three games against the Browns, with five total and keeping that trend going will be critical to a much-needed Browns win.
3. Special Teams is a Net Positive
Far too often this year has the third phase of the game, special teams, been a negative for the Browns. Whether it's been the failure to recover an onside kick, a blown coverage assignment that leads to a big return, muffing punts, or missing critical field goals and extra points, the Browns special teams have too often been a contributing factor to the team's five losses.
The Bengals have a very solid return game, a veteran punter in Kevin Huber, and a powerful and accurate kicker in Evan McPherson, who already has made a 59-yarder this year and has five walk-off game winning kicks, including one in the AFC Championship game last year. The Bengals are a Top 10 scoring offense and defense, and it has been the solid play of their special teams that have allowed them to win four of the last five. The Browns need to at least be net neutral on special teams with the Bengals on Monday night, and if it can be a net positive, it will go a long way to getting this win.