Cleat Geeks

Thursday Night Preview: Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals


The Cleveland Browns will travel to Cincinnati to take on the undefeated Bengals on Thursday. This will be these AFC North rivals’ 84th meeting; Bengals lead the series 44-39. A note for viewers: These Thursday Night Football games will now be shown on NFL Network for the rest of the season (yes, I know this is dumb).


The Browns enter this game 2-6 and beat up at basically every position. Starting at quarterback on Thursday will be none other than “Johnny Football” (Johnny Manziel). He starts in the place of Josh McCown, who has a painful rib injury. This will be Manziel’s second start of the season, fourth of his career. He is 1-2 as a starter, and he got his first win in week two with the 28-14 win over the Titans. He finished the game with 172 passing yards, but 110 of those came on two passes. Besides McCown, there are other big name injuries for the Browns this week. Concussions have been disastrous for the Browns’ roster this season. Those inactive due to concussions Thursday include WR Brian Hartline, WR Andrew Hawkins, S Donte Whitner, and star CB Joe Haden. B9315316747Z.1_20141130195341_000_G9A99A7EH.1-0Many younger guys will be asked to step up as they face one of their toughest tasks of the season: beating the Bengals at home. One of the lone bright spots for the Browns this season has been tight end Gary Barnidge. He is second for receiving yards and touchdowns among tight ends with 567 and six respectively. He is also tied for the most receptions among tight ends with 40. He has had a great chemistry with McCown, but how has it looked with Manziel under center? In the one game Manziel started this season, Barnidge hauled in his only target for 17 yards. Last week, Manziel was forced to come in at the end of the game and attempted six passes. Only one was directed towards Barnidge, and it went for only a yard. Manziel has not developed that chemistry with Barnidge, but he definitely looks for Travis Benjamin. Remember when I said 110 of Manziel’s 172 yards came on two plays? Well, they both were to Benjamin, and they both were touchdowns. For the Browns to win, Benjamin will have to have another great game, but Manziel will also have to develop some sort of chemistry with Barnidge quickly.

The Bengals enter this game 7-0 after a hard-fought victory last week in Pittsburgh. Leading the charge for them is quarterback Andy Dalton who is having a career year averaging 284 passing yards per game. He is sharing the love among his top three favorite pass-catchers: A.J. Green with 649 yards, Tyler Eifert with 381 yards, and Marvin Jones with 333 yards. The Bengals have two very different running backs in the backfield with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Hill is a downhill runner that ran well last week for 60 yards on 15 carries. Bernard is a change-of-pace receiving back who had a surprisingly quiet game last week. He finished with only three total touches for 34 yards. They are a balanced, strong team both offensively and defensively, which is why they are hard to beat. They will look to take advantage of the shorthanded Cleveland Browns on Thursday.




This will be a pretty simple fantasy paragraph for the Browns. I don’t want anything to do with Manziel. There is a chance that he has a decent game, but you should be able to find better options elsewhere. He has never passed for 200 yards in a game before, but surprisingly, I think he could get close to that on Thursday. The running back situation for the Browns is not a great one (Josh McCown had the most rushing yards last week with 18), but Duke Johnson is an alright play in a PPR league. He has failed to reach 50 receiving yards just once in the past five games. With the addition to Manziel on the offense, Benjamin’s stock rises. He is clearly Manziel’s favorite target. He has basically been the only person he looks for. I think he has a good shot at 70-100 yards and a touchdown. As Benjamin’s stock goes up, Barnidge’s goes down. I’m not sure why, but Manziel is just unable to find him. I think the coaches will be in his ear and call plays specifically for Barnidge, so it won’t be as bad as before. He is likely to finished with 40-60 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals are loaded with fantasy options that should have good games. The Browns are currently giving up 415 yards per game with 147 of them coming on the ground. This bodes well for Hill and Bernard. I think Hill will get the majority of the carries and finish with 75+ rushing yards and at least one touchdown. Bernard is an okay flex play after the disappointment last week. He has been great whenever he’s had the ball, and I think he’ll get 6-10 touches in this game. Andy Dalton should be able to pick apart their depleted secondary. You can mark him down for 2-3 touchdowns. A.J. Green had a fantastic game last week (118 yards and a TD on 17 targets) and he should have another great one. He’ll get 100+ yards and a touchdown. Both Eifert and Jones are also good plays this week. My only worry about the passing attack is if they get up by so much that they decide to just run the ball with Hill. If you are looking for a good D/ST to start this week, I think theirs is a good play. They don’t usually blitz often, but they might be a bit more aggressive against Manziel. They should get a few sacks and a couple turnovers.




This week is simple: I’m picking the more talented, healthier, home team. The Bengals will stay unbeaten as they defeat the Browns 34-20.

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