Battle of Ohio: 5 things to know about tonight’s Bengals-Browns clash

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

Joe Burrow once considered himself a bit of a Cleveland Browns fan. Now, he’s ready for his first experience playing in the Battle of Ohio as the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals (0-1) travel to play the Browns (0-1) on Thursday Night Football, in what will be the first AFC North matchup for Cincinnati. Cleveland is coming off a 38-6 loss to Baltimore, while Burrow saw his rally attempt just fall short against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 16-13 defeat at home.

This is the first game with fans in the stands for both teams, as the Browns have been approved to sell up to 6,000 tickets, but it will still be an unusual first Battle of Ohio experience for Burrow. The Bengals lead 51-42 in the “Battle of Ohio” series and have won nine of the last 13 games, splitting last year, but they trail 20-26 in games at Cleveland.

Here are five things to know heading into the matchup:

1. No. 1 draft picks face off

Much has been said about the matchup between Burrow and former No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield, both of whom are looking for better performances in Game 2.

Mayfield, who missed Odell Beckham on seven of 10 targets Sunday, set the rookie touchdown pass record in 2018 when he came out of Oklahoma with 27 touchdowns in 13 games. Burrow said he isn’t thinking about that record, but the Bengals have high expectations for their rookie starter.

Burrow seemed to thrive on pressure late in the game Sunday as the Bengals picked up the pace of the offense and went five-wide for some different looks as they tried to rally on the final drive. He was disappointed in missed opportunities earlier in the game, including his interception, and going 0-for-5 on deep shots.

Now it’s a short week of preparation to learn from the mistakes and get ready for a new team.

“The games come down to two or three plays that you make or you don’t, and I didn’t make them on Sunday and we lost,” Burrow said. “I’m focused on making those plays on Thursday.”

Mayfield could be missing wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is questionable with a hip injury.

2. Questions up front

The Bengals will be missing starters on both lines, and the Browns have several players banged up on their offensive line so things might look a little different in the trenches.

Cincinnati right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is out with an ankle injury and went on injured reserve Thursday, so Billy Price is expected to start in his place, and defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels are out with shoulder and groin injuries, respectively.

The Browns listed offensive tackle Jack Conklin (ankle/finger) as a non-participant in practice Monday and Tuesday, while tackles Chris Hubbard (ankle) and Jedrick Willis Jr. (shin) and center JC Tretter (knee) were all limited. All four were limited Wednesday and are questionable.

Even with the Bengals missing some players on the defensive line, the Browns will still have Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader and Carl Lawson coming at them in the pass rush. Cincinnati’s offensive line could have its hands full in protecting Burrow with Myles Garrett and Sheldon Richardson pushing through on the left side. Cleveland defensive end Olivier Vernon is questionable with an abdomen injury.

3. Stopping the run

Cincinnati’s defense struggled to stop the run all last season and allowed 155 yards on the ground to the Chargers on Sunday. The Browns' Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt pose another challenge.

“We’ve got to get some tackles for loss,” linebacker Germaine Pratt said. “We’ve got to get them behind the chains and we can’t let people break out long runs. We had a long run. We can’t allow that. We can’t allow explosive plays. We’ve got to stop the run. We’ve got to get them behind the chains.”

Pratt called Hunt and Chubb “explosive backs” that are both capable of 100-yard rushing performances. The Bengals ended up shutting Chubb down in the finale last year, as he managed just 41 yards on the ground but he’s broken 100 yards against them in two of his four meetings against the Bengals.

4. Mixon anxious for redemption

Bengals running back Joe Mixon didn’t have his best game Sunday, as the running game showed a bit of rust in the opener and he gave up his first fumble since the 2017 finale. The one Sunday gave the Chargers a short field and enabled them to take the lead for the final points of the game.

Mixon said he watched the film of his fumble at least 50 times to learn from it, and now he’s ready to move on for a better outcome Thursday.

“Got to put it behind me and move on,” Mixon said. “Honestly, it definitely hurt. Definitely disappointed. It’s definitely inexcusable. It’s something I will never get used to doing. From there, you just got to learn from it, learn from the mistake and bounce back, hopefully look back to go ahead and go on another streak. I am definitely going to make up for it this week and it’s definitely going to add fuel to the fire.”

Mixon has experienced personal success against the Browns. In six games against them, he has 608 yards and four touchdowns, plus 20 catches for 200 yards. Last year, he rushed for more than 140 yards against them in both meetings and had three touchdowns combined.

5. Kicking games

The Bengals claimed former Browns kicker Austin Seibert off waivers Tuesday, the day after he was released for missing a PAT and field goal in the opener. Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said Randy Bullock is still the team’s kicker, but Seibert brings insurance in case Bullock’s calves flare up again.

It would be fitting of the Battle of Ohio rivalry for Seibert to face his old team with a chance to prove himself in an important moment, but at this point, it’s either just mind games or truly just a backup situation.

Cody Parkey is now the kicker from the Browns. He was signed off their practice squad Monday.

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

Bengals at Browns, 8:20 p.m., NFL, 700, 1290, 1530, 95.7, 102.7, 104.7