Today marks the first installment of a new series here at WhoDeyFans. Before each week, I’ll take a look at three items heading into gameday. This week’s opponent is the Cleveland Browns.
Matchup Problem: Joe Thomas, LT
Thomas could neautralize one of the Bengals defensive ends for the entire game. Michael Johnson has had a strong preseason, but if he’s matched up against Thomas (and I suspect he will be), he might have some trouble providing a pass rush. Thomas is one of the best tackles in the game and is clearly a centerpiece of Cleveland’s offense having just signed a contract extension. He’ll provide a good test for the Bengals defensive line, one of the team’s apparent strengths, in Week One.
Player to Watch: Carlos Dunlap, DE
Dunlap has missed almost the entire preseason after setting a team rookie record for sacks last year. He could be matched up consistently against right tackle Tony Pashos who has struggled at times in pass protection. If Dunlap is close to last season’s form – or better – he could draw double teams and pose other matchup problems for the Browns. If Dunlap struggles, he may be still injured or rusty, which hurts the defense.
How the Bengals could win: By controlling the line of scrimmage. Cincinnati is somewhat lucky in drawing the Browns in the opener. Yes, it’s a road game, but Cincinnati may have more talent across the board. The key to victory will be a dominant running game that makes life easier for Andy Dalton, making his first NFL start. On defense, a stout run defense and a healthy pass rush will keep emerging quarterback Colt McCoy from getting comfortable. Some early point spreads have installed Cleveland as 7-point favorites, but if the Bengals avoid the criticial mistakes that were a staple of the preseason, they could win the game outright. Could.