COMMENTARY | The Cleveland Browns will play their most important game in nearly six years on November 17.
Cleveland's Week 11 matchup against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals may well be the game that decides the AFC North race. If the Browns lose, they can kiss any hopes of winning the division goodbye, and would need a lot of help down the stretch if they hope to snag a wild-card berth in 2013.
It's not going to be easy against a Cincinnati squad that has payback on its mind after losing to Cleveland in Week 4, but these are four reasons why the Browns will defeat the Bengals this weekend:
Joe Haden Is At The Top Of His Game Right Now
Haden has arguably been the best cornerback in the AFC this season, and he played excellent football in Cleveland's first meeting with Cincinnati in 2013. Haden held Bengals wideout A.J. Green to 51 yards on seven catches -- not bad at all, considering Green was targeted 15 times in the game by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Green has been on a tear recently, having had over 100 yards receiving in each of his last five games. If Haden can even come close to his performance in Week 4, it's really going to handcuff a Cincinnati offense that relies heavily on the success of its passing game.
The Cleveland Offense Should Do Just Fine With Jason Campbell Leading The Way
When the Browns defeated the Bengals on September 29, the play of Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer was a big reason for the Browns' success on that day. Of course, Hoyer is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Campbell has played well since taking over as Cleveland's starting quarterback. He has posted a quarterback rating of over 100 in each of his first two starts against the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. There's good reason to believe that Campbell will be able to put up his third straight solid performance against a Bengal defense that is pretty banged-up at the moment.
Cincinnati Has Been Underwhelming Of Late
Heading into a matchup on Halloween night against the Miami Dolphins, it looked as if the Bengals were going to run away with the AFC North. Cincinnati was 6-2 and owners of a four-game winning streak punctuated by a 49-9 rout of the New York Jets on October 27. Since then, the Bengals have lost two straight overtime games against the Dolphins and Ravens, as turnovers have crippled Cincinnati over the past couple of weeks. The Bengals turned the ball over seven times between those two games, after having just four turnovers during their winning streak. If Cincinnati continues to have trouble hanging onto the football, they are going to pay dearly for it this weekend.
These Aren't The Same Old Browns
This current Browns team does not lack for confidence, I will say that much. There have been numerous times in 2013 where Cleveland could've just threw in the towel on the season, and set their sights on 2014, but it never happened. The resiliency shown by the Browns this year is a reflection of the coaching style of Rob Chudzinski, who has done an excellent job in cultivating a winning attitude for the Browns. Let's face it, after dealing with the Trent Richardson trade and the Brandon Weeden saga, trying to beat a Bengals team that they have already defeated this season might not be the most daunting task for the battle-tested Browns.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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