|Bengals, Browns set for latest rendition of Battle of Ohio|
The Battle of Ohio between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals has devolved, unofficially, to two coaches battling for their jobs.
The Browns, coached by Hue Jackson, are 0-10.
The Bengals, coached by Marvin Lewis, are 4-6. Lewis is in the final year of his current contract.
Lewis and Jackson are close friends, but that won't matter on Sunday when the Browns and Bengals meet at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
"I don't have anything to worry about beyond this year," Lewis said Wednesday. "I would never worry about beyond the year I'm in. Nothing has changed for me.
"We're not pleased with where we are. We have another opportunity to improve on that this week."
The pair met in Cleveland in the fourth week of the season. Both were winless at kickoff. The Bengals rolled to a 31-7 win, but the victory did not jumpstart their season as they hoped it would.
The rematch could be decided by which team runs the ball better. That would depend on which team blocks better, and that could give an edge to the Browns.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler defected to the Browns in 2017 after five seasons in Cincinnati. The Bengals' loss has been the Browns' gain.
"Every year at this time, you try to crank it up because it's harder to throw the football in cold weather," Browns running game coordinator Kirby Wilson said. "We like to try to have more minutes with the football than our opponents, so the possession time is very important.
"To keep the football, you have to execute on third downs to get more downs, which means you have to run the ball efficiently on first and second down, as well. You would like to be a dominant team throughout the season but especially once late November and December hits."
The Bengals have some momentum after beating the Broncos 20-17 in Cincinnati last Sunday. They are still in the hunt for a wild card, so despite a focus on Lewis and his job status, the Bengals should be highly motivated to pull off another sweep of the Browns. Cincinnati beat Cleveland six straight times going back to the second game of the 2014 series.
"We have to just concern ourselves with us," Lewis said. "This football game with the Browns is a big one for us as all of them are. We have to continue to spring good plays together."
Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett missed the game against the Bengals on Oct. 1 in Cleveland because of a sprained ankle. He's back, but injuries have decimated the Browns' defense elsewhere; starting left defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah suffered a broken foot in the 19-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Defensive tackle Jamie Mede suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game. Both players were put on injured reserve Sunday.
Starting linebacker Jamie Collins suffered a season-ending knee injury one week earlier. James Burgess, Collins' replacement, made 16 tackles against the Jaguars last week.
Burgess is no stranger to the Bengals. Collins missed the first game with Cincinnati because of a concussion. Burgess started at strong side linebacker and made five tackles.
"I can't replace Jamie Collins," Burgess said. "He's probably one of the most talented dudes I've ever seen in my life with my eyes. He is a great dude all around on the field and off the field. That's not even in my thought process. You can't replace a dude like that. All I can do is play as good as James Burgess can play."
In addition on the injury front, safety Jabrill Peppers (ankle), wide receiver Sammie Coates (knee) and defensive back Derron Smith (knee) did not practice with the Browns on Wednesday.
Cornerback Darqueze Denard (knee), linebacker Jordan Evans (concussion), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (not injury related), linebacker Vincent Rey (hamstring) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) did not practice with the Bengals.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed only 15 of 25 passes for a modest 154 yards against the Broncos, but he threw three touchdown passes to run his season total to 19. He torched the Browns defense for four touchdown passes in the October encounter.
The weather forecast for Sunday in Cincinnati calls for a high of 39 degrees but no precipitation. Both teams might want to run the ball, but the opportunity should be there for Dalton to test the Browns secondary, which has given up 20 touchdown passes through 10 games.
DeShone Kizer will be making his 10th start for the Browns. It has been a rough season for the rookie quarterback from Notre Dame. He has thrown 14 interceptions and is trying to rebound from turning the ball over four times against the Jaguars last week. He threw one interception and fumbled twice on the Browns final three possessions.
Kizer threw one interception in the first game against the Bengals.