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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CLE at CIN* OAK at NYJ SF at SEA MIA at SD* Mon 9 PM
IND at JAC TB at CAR BAL at DEN Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Cleveland 14, Cincinnati 24

This battle of Ohio used to be more fun when both teams were battling for the cellar but now the teams could not be farther away in the division. The Bengals won this match-up 27-13 as the season opener in Cleveland this season and are even better now. The only hope for the Browns would be a letdown by the Bengals after their win in Pittsburgh last week but that's probably a bit too much to want.

Update: Droughns has been nursing a sore knee and was held out of practice on Wednesday but returned on Thursday. I am lowering his numbers slightly.

Cleveland Browns (4-8)
1 13-27 CIN 10 21-34 @PIT
2 26-24 @GBP 11 22-0 MIA
3 6-13 @IND 12 12-24 @MIN
4 Open Bye 13 14-20 JAC
5 20-10 CHI 14 Dec 11 @CIN
6 3-16 @BAL 15 Dec 18 @OAK
7 10-13 DET 16 Dec 24 PIT
8 16-19 @HOU 17 Jan 1 BAL
9 20-14 TEN . . SAT
CLE at CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Frye 0 0 220,2
RB Reuben Droughns 60 20 0
TE Steve Heiden 0 40,1 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 70,1 0
WR Frisman Jackson 0 30 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 60 0
PK Phil Dawson 0 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Browns have managed to lose their first round pick to a knee injury for the second year in a row when Braylon Edwards tore his ACL last week. Edwards was starting to come on in the later part of the season and with Charlie Frye playing, a glimpse of the future that looked promising. Now the Browns are back to where they were last year with just Dennis Northcutt and Antonio Bryant. The Browns have lost five of their last six games.

Quarterback: Charlie Frye took his first NFL start last week and ended with 226 yards and two scores with no turnovers. Unfortunately both scores went to Braylon Edwards who is now gone and most of his success came in the first half before the Jaguars woke up and mounted a winning comeback. HC Romeo Crennel said he started Frye to rest Trent Dilfer's knees (wink) and that he won't decide on a starter until game time this week (wink). Given that the season is over and Frye could use the work, I am assuming Frye plays but it is not official yet.

Dilfer threw for 278 yards and one score in the opener against the Bengals.

Running Backs: Reuben Droughns ran for 78 yards on only 12 carries against the Bengals this year in a game that got away quickly from the luxury of running the ball back in week one. Since that time Droughns remains around that mark in most games anyway and only has two games with 100 or more rushing yards and only two scores on the season. Droughns was being used more in the passing game but then had no catches last week.

Wide Receivers: Now that Braylon Edwards is out, Dennis Northcutt will resume the starting slot opposite from Antonio Bryant. The previous meeting against the Bengals was that freakish game when Frisman Jackson had 128 yards and one score. Bryant only had 65 yards in that game and Northcutt was held to only 16 yards. Jackson immediately disappeared after week one but could show back up more now that Edwards is gone and Jackson will take the slot.

Tight Ends: Just when Steve Heiden was coming off a nice 55 yard game, he turned in only one catch for four yards last week. No consistency here and rarely more than 20 or 30 yards in a game.

Match Against the Defense: The Browns were held to little in the last meeting other than the one long freak catch by Frisman Jackson and he has done nothing since. There is a good chance that the Bengals will be a bit down after such a huge win last week and they know they can beat the Browns anyway. That will likely just keep the Bengals side of the score down, not add anything to the Browns, especially with a rookie quarterback likely to play. Expect moderate rushing by Droughns and no score.

Frye, or even Dilfer for that matter, has an opportunity here for a decent game against a team that has given up three passing scores to each of the last three opponents but a big game is unrealistic with a rookie passer and the absence of Edwards. On the high side there could be two scores and some moderate yardage that has to favor Bryant. The Bengals are actually weak on tight ends so Heiden could finally get a score.

Cincinnati Bengals (9-3)
1 27-13 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 37-8 MIN 11 37-45 IND
3 24-7 @CHI 12 42-29 BAL
4 16-10 HOU 13 38-31 @PIT
5 20-23 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 31-23 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 13-27 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 21-14 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 21-9 @BAL . . SAT
CIN vs CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 260,2
RB Rudi Johnson 100,1 20 0
RB Chris Perry 20 20 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 80,1 0
WR Chris Henry 0 30 0
PK Shayne Graham 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bengals lost to the Steelers 13-27 back in week seven so the trip last week to Pittsburgh that provided a 38-31 win was huge in more ways than one. That puts the Bengals two games up in the AFC North and in contention for a first round bye if they can win out. The next three games against the Browns, Lions and Bills all should be wins and only the season finale in Kansas City is likely to be a problem - and by then the Bengals could be in fine shape anyway depending on Denver.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer opened his season by throwing for 280 yards and two scores against the Browns and he has only gotten better. Palmer now joins Manning as the two best quarterbacks in the league (at least that are still healthy) and he's had at least two scores in each of the last five games.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson gained 126 yards and one score in the season opener in Cleveland before turning into a machine that ran for 80 yards and did not score. And then came the last three games when Johnson has scored twice and ended with close to 100 yards in each. Nice time for the running game to start to come on and peak.

Chris Perry has only had minimal playing time in the last couple of games though he could show up if the score gets big and the Bengals opt to rest Johnson.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson gained 91 yards and Houshmandzadeh turned in 75 yards in the previous meeting with the Browns. Neither scored in that game but together they make one of the top receiving tandems in the league. Throw in Chris Henry scoring in three of the last four games and this passing attack is tough to defend and impossible to completely shut down.

Tight Ends: Reggie Kelly had a score last week but that was his first of the year and only the second one caught by a Bengals tight end this year. Rarely over ten yards in any game.

Match Against the Defense: Look for a good effort here that could be huge but there is no reason for the Bengals to press too hard against a team they have already dominated in Cleveland earlier this year. The Bengals are better and the Browns - about the same really. Look for another nice rushing effort from Rudi Johnson who will be relied on to kill the clock.

Palmer will throw for two scores largely because he doesn't know how not to. The Browns are weak against tight ends but the Bengals rarely use them. Johnson should be a lock for one touchdown here and either Henry or Houshmandzadeh should net the other one.