Thursday Night Football
(USA TODAY Sports)

Key Matchups

Week 2 of the NFL season is underway, and you know what that means. It’s time for Thursday Night Football!

This week we have an AFC North showdown between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns received a total beat down by the Baltimore Ravens, and the Bengals lost a heart breaker after a missing a game-tying field goal. It’s time to look at the critical factors for tonight’s game, including crucial matchups, injuries, and how each team can win.

Cleveland Corners vs Cincinnati Receivers

The starting corners for the Cleveland Browns tonight are Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell on the outside. Greedy Williams is ruled out for the game with a shoulder injury. A.J Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Tee Higgins are all a full go. If the Cleveland corners can’t step up and at least slowdown Joe Burrow’s receivers, he’s going to have a field day. If corners can’t cover, then the pass rush doesn’t mean much; it will take multiple players stepping up for the Browns to shut down the Bengals offense on Thursday Night Football.

Baker Mayfield vs Himself

There is absolutely no reason for Baker Mayfield to not light up the scoreboard tonight. The Bengals defensive line is thin due to Mike Daniels and Geno Atkins out for the game. Their defense is far from great, as they are missing vital pieces.

If Baker Mayfield doesn’t make a significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, it’s because of him. The front office has tried to find Baker, the right coach. At some point, Cleveland has to admit that they whiffed on the quarterback. The Browns are no stranger to this realization.


Cleveland Browns:

The Cleveland Browns have multiple injuries heading into Thursday Night. The following players are either out or questionable. Kevin Johnson (Liver), Jacob Phillips (Knee), Greedy Williams (Shoulder), and Mack Wilson (Knee) are all ruled out for tonight. Jack Conklin (Finger/ankle), Chris Hubbard (Ankle), JC Tretter (Knee), Olivier Vernon (Abdomen), Jedrick Wills Jr. (Shin), and Jarvis Landry (Hip) are all listed as questionable for tonight.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals have eight players on their injury report for the short week. Shawn Williams (Calf), Xavier Su’a-Filo (Ankle), Mike Daniels (Groin), and Geno Atkins (Shoulder) have all been ruled out. LeShaun Sims, with a personal reason that is not injury-related, Billy Price is listed with an ankle injury. Sam Hubbard, with a knee injury and Randy Bullock with a rather convenient calf injury. The game status of those four players remains unknown. It’s not that much of a surprise to see such long injury reports for Thursday Night Football.

Keys To Victory

Cincinnati Bengals: Get Joe Burrow Comfortable

We can talk about Randy Bullock’s missed field goal all we want, but Joe Burrow wasn’t impressive in his NFL debut. I don’t blame him. The Chargers have a great defense. It’s up to the Bengals coaching staff to get Joe Burrow into a rhythm so that he doesn’t need to put together a last-second drive to win the game.

Cleveland Browns: Take The Ball Out Of Baker’s Hands

Baker Mayfield was the problem against the Baltimore Ravens. Nick Chubb averaged 6.0 yards per carry, and Kareem Hunt averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The two running backs had 23 combined carries. On the other hand, Baker Mayfield averaged 4.8 yards per attempt, throwing for 189 yards, going 21/39 with a touchdown and an interception.

Baker either needs to step up his play, or the ball needs to be taken out of his hands. He’s been in a steady regression ever since the beginning of his sophomore season. Kevin Stefanski would be smart to rely on the running game. It’s the only consistently good part of the offense.

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