Who is ready for a late-season preseason game?
Tonight, the Cleveland Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Battle of the Backups
- With the Kansas City Chiefs winning on Saturday, it provided even more motivation for the Cincinnati Bengals to not care about today’s season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Sure, the Bengals could still end up as either the No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4 seeds, but unless you’re getting a first-round bye, it’s better to go into the postseason with a healthy roster than risk fighting for that one spot (which is out of their control anyway, as it would depend on the Titans losing).
- We’ll see Brandon Allen start at quarterback for the Bengals and Case Keenum start at quarterback for the Browns. As far as other backups gone, the Bengals will have more of them. Joe Mixon is already out to injury, and I would be stunned if they let Ja’Marr Chase touch the field. I also expect several of their top players to rest up for the playoffs.
- Cleveland, on the other hand, sounds like they’ll be treating it as a normal game, aside from the quarterback change. Myles Garrett isn’t listed on the injury report. Although both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are listed as questionable and were limited in practice, they could both play. D’Ernest Johnson also made the quick comeback from the COVID-19 list.
- I could see the Brown’ defensive backfield being rested, as Denzel Ward (groin), Greedy Williams (shoulder), John Johnson (hamstring), Ronnie Harrison (ankle), and Troy Hill (knee) are all dealing with injuries that you don’t want to rush back from.
Something to Play For?
- This is an odd game. We have nothing to play for as far as playoff hopes go. Beating the Bengals really does nothing as far as a rivalry, because they don’t care either (although it would be odd for us to sweep the AFC North champions). It’s also not a game where we can give future players a shot at hope they shine — Case Keenum isn’t a long-term guy at quarterback, and I’d almost rather bubble wrap the running backs.
- As far as players who it’d be nice to see thrive, the obvious choices are Anthony Schwartz, Demetric Felton, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The first two have not been utilized or productive enough compared to their expectations.
- This could also be the final season in a Browns uniform for some players. Take Jarvis Landry, for example. Although he’s under contract for $16.5 million next year, the team could cut him for only a cap hit of $1.5 million and look to invest in a younger receiver. Thomas Moore had the rundown of other players who could be playing their final game with the team.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 5-point favorites against the Bengals.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “Cleveland’s first-teamers (aside from quarterback) find enough ball control and motivation to take out the Bengals.” Browns 20, Bengals 17
Barry Shuck: “Who will win between the Browns and Bengals. Does it matter as a fan? As a player, absolutely. Do not for one second think the guys playing for starters aren’t going to give it their all. They may have a new home next year, and so this audition is crucial. As a fan, you want the Browns to win, and on the other hand you want them to have a better draft slot. Both squads should see massive substitutions and will be a great time to play the backups.” Bengals 24, Browns 20
Thomas Moore: “The Bengals have suddenly found themselves as the belle of the NFL ball after last week’s referee-aided win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns, on the other hand, are this year’s worn-out prom queen, who went from everyone’s favorite last season to being full of regret this year. Still, the Browns have found a way to go 6-1 against the Bengals since the start of the 2018 season, so there is the possibility that the team can give everyone one last happy ending before heading into the offseason.
To do that, the Browns will have to rely on their cast of backups being able to handle Cincinnati’s cast of backups as both teams will likely sit their best players, or at least limit their playing time, as neither has anything to really play for at this point. What the heck? Browns find a way to get it done one more time and plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the Bengal players that can grow until they meet again this fall.” Bengals 14, Browns 10
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.