Cleveland Browns (0-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Paul Brown Stadium. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots.
SERIES HISTORY: 86th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 46-39, and have won the past three meetings. Cincinnati is 28-15 as the home team. During Marvin Lewis' tenure as coach, the Bengals are 18-8 against Cleveland, including a 10-3 mark at home.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson faces his former team on Sunday. Jackson served as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator the past two seasons and they miss him. The Bengals rank 29th in the league in scoring and have struggled in the red zone. In order to maintain their postseason hopes and avoid being the Browns' first victim, the Bengals need to convert on their red-zone opportunities which has been a struggle for them all year.
If veteran cornerback Joe Haden blankets A.J. Green, look for big days from Brandon LaFell or Tyler Boyd. The Bengals will try to get their running game going against Cleveland which ranks 28th against the rush.
The Browns gained yardage in short passes early in the season, but might turn to a more vertical attack against the Bengals. Cincinnati has allowed 14 passing touchdowns, which ranks near the bottom of the league.
Rookie Browns QB Cody Kessler seems to be getting a grasp on his job, but how well the vertical attack could work might depend on the health of Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is bothered by a hamstring injury and did not practice Wednesday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Browns CB Joe Haden vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green. There's no lack of familiarity here as these two AFC North rivals are accustomed to going at it twice per season. Haden has had success against Green and is tied for the Browns' team-lead with two interceptions.
--Browns WR Terrelle Pryor vs. the Bengals defense. Browns coach Hue Jackson has a knack for putting players in position to succeed and he's created a weapon in Pryor who leads the team in receiving yards, catches and touchdowns.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict. This always-controversial veteran is under scrutiny for acts last week that many believe would result in his being suspended. But he was not. During Sunday's loss at New England, Burfict hit Patriots' tight end Martellus Bennett below the knees when he misread a Tom Brady pump-fake, then later appeared to stomp on the leg of running back LaGarrette Blount. Burfict was not flagged for those plays. League sources reportedly fined Burfict $75,000 for his actions but there was no suspension. Burfict was suspended the first three games of this season for repeated violations of rules pertaining to player safety. Coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday that a video showing Burfict's purported stomp on Blount was inconclusive. "I don't think he did anything wrong," said Lewis. "I don't think he meant to do anything. We were not in the wrong, here, in my opinion."
INJURY REPORT: Cleveland -- Out: CB Marcus Burley (hamstring), WR Corey Coleman (hand), TE Seth DeValve (knee), QB Josh McCown (left shoulder). Doubtful: CB Joe Haden (groin). Questionable: DE Xavier Cooper (shoulder), WR Terrelle Pryor (hamstring), TE Randall Telfer (ankle). Cincinnati -- Questionable: TE Tyler Eifert (back, ankle).
FAST FACTS: The Browns defense ranks 30th in the league in red zone defense with 16 touchdowns allowed in 22 inside the 20 situations. ... The Bengals are averaging 18.2 points per game, which ranks 29th in the league. A contributing factor is they settled for nine field goals on 19 trips inside the red zone. ... Bengals QB Andy Dalton has led the league in passing yards each of the last three weeks.
PREDICTION: It is tempting to pick the Browns in an upset, but that backfired already once this season. Dalton is hot and the Browns have not learned how to win, despite playing well enough to do so at times.
OUR PICK: Bengals, 32-24.