The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will face off Thursday night in a classic AFC North battle. It's been a long time, but this used to be one of the best rivalries going back in the 1980s. Neither team has been able to win a Super Bowl, but we usually get a good game between these two teams.

The Bengals won the last meeting, 30-0.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-0)

This is a big game for the Bengals as they are currently tied with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC. Bengals fans haven't watched their team win a playoff game since 1990, the longest drought in the NFL. Maybe this is finally the year they end that long depressing drought.

Andy Dalton is playing like an MVP candidate this year with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions and a 107.6 passer rating. You could very well make the case that Dalton has been a top five quarterback this season. The Bengals have been one of the healthiest teams this year as well. The Bengals ground game isn't the greatest in the league, but it is very consistent. Giovani Bernard hasn't fumbled even once this year, and the Bengals have scored the second most rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, Adam "Pacman" Jones is playing the best football of his career opposite side of Reggie Nelson. Overall, the Bengals defense ranks No. 7 in points allowed. By far the biggest win of the season for the Bengals was their big comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week now gives them a commanding lead in the AFC North.

The Bengals play the Houston Texans next week.

Cleveland Browns (2-6)

It's another disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns haven't made the playoffs since 2002, and they haven't even won a playoff game since Bill Belichick was their head coach in 1994. Ironically, that was against the Patriots. Now, 2-6, the Browns only hope at making the playoffs is grabbing a wild card spot.

Johnny Manziel will be starting in place of an injured Josh McCown. Manziel has only started three games so far in his young career, so it's too early to really make any judgments. He's very small, but he is a mobile quarterback, and you can bet he'll be running a lot on Thursday night. In Manziel's only start this season he did defeat the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 with a pair of touchdown passes. Obviously this is a much tougher task.

To make things even more difficult, shutdown cornerback Joe Haden will likely miss this game because of an injury. Even with Haden, the Browns defense ranks 30th overall in yards allowed and 26th overall in points allowed. A.J. Green might have a 100-yard game on Thursday. The Browns defensive line is also the single worst unit as far as rushing yards allowed this season.

The Browns play the Steelers next week.


The Browns and Bengals will play each other on Thursday night at 8:25 p.m. EDT on the NFL Network. The game will be played at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can watch a live game stream here.


This has all the factors for a Bengals blowout: inexperienced quarterback, Bengals at home, Browns hurting, you name it. This is a great opportunity for the Bengals to simply get another win, remain in first place and enjoy a long 10-day break.

Bengals win 31-13

Follow Damon Salvadore on Twitter @DamonSalvadore1