COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Cleveland Browns face their third division foe in four weeks and are coming off an emphatic win over the Tennessee Titans. The Cincinnati Bengals look to even their record against those very same Titans.
Here are the keys to games for Week 4:
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-1)
Sunday, Oct. 1 at Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1 p.m.
Hit ’em where it hurts: The Ravens are reeling with injuries, particularly on defense. Starters Marlon Humphery (CB, foot), Marcus Williams (S, pectoral muscle), Odafe Oweh (OLB, ankle) and David Ojabo (ankle) are all questionable for Sunday’s game. It’s an opportunity for Quarterback DeShaun Watson to continue his pass-game resurgence after a 289-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Titans. This would be especially useful after the Browns experienced a hiccup in the run game in the aftermath of Nick Chubb’s season-ending injury.
Trending (down): David Njoku – Njoku (10 receptions, 92 yards) has been mostly an afterthought through three games this season. Averaging just 30.67 yards per game, the more concerning stat is his meager 3.67 targets per game. Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore each garner five more targets per game, leaving little for Njoku, who ironically leads the Browns with 78 yards after the catch.
The Ravens are no slouch defending the tight end either, having allowed six touchdowns to the position since the beginning of the 2022 season. But having a third receiving option will help Watson’s aforementioned resurgence when opposing defenses lock down receivers Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore, who have collected 50 targets this season, or 49% of Watson’s pass attempts.
Line: Ravens 2½. O/U: 40½.
Prediction: Browns to be taken seriously after a 22-19 victory.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Sunday, Oct. 1 at Nissan Stadium, Nashville, 1 p.m.
Run defense: After getting gouged to the tune of 206 rushing yards in Week 1 to the Browns, the Bengals have slowly tightened their grip in the trenches. The Ravens had success on the ground (178 yards on 37 carries) but did not dominate the way Nick Chubb did. Cincinnati then shut down the Rams for only 78 yards rushing last Monday. It’s a good trend to pair with a Titans matchup in which Derrick Henry comes into the game with just a 3.2 yards-per-carry average. Keeping him from heating up, particularly in the second half, will be key, while QB Ryan Tannehill and WR DeAndre Hopkins (14 receptions, 153 yards) continue search for rhythm.
Trending (down): Joe Burrow – While Burrow technically improved his yards-per-pass numbers last week (26 of 49 for 259 yards, 5.3 per attempt), his 4.7 yards-per-pass average is second lowest in the league. The calf injury remains an obstacle and is preventing Burrow from moving around the pocket and buying time for downfield passing.
According to Next Gen Stats, in 2022, Burrow was ranked among the best deep-ball QBs in the league, completing 19-of-48 passes for 668 yards with eight touchdowns to just one interception. Ja’Marr Chase, who averaged 14.9 yards per reception over his first two seasons, is down to 9.6 YPR this season. Last week’s gain of 43 yards was the longest pass of the season for Burrow and yet Chase still only averaged 11.8 yards per catch against the Rams. Tee Higgins (14 YPR the last three seasons) has 11 yards per reception this season (10-110). Even Tyler Boyd, a possession receiver mostly, is down to 7.8 YPR from 12.7 the previous two seasons.
The calf injury isn’t just hurting Burrow, but the entire offensive unit’s production.
Line: Bengals 2½. O/U: 41.
Prediction: Bengals get to .500 with a 23-16 win.