Browns-Bengals an essential AFC North battle Thursday

If I told you the Cleveland Browns were playing for a tie of first place in the AFC North in Week 10, you could call me crazy.

Well, not so fast. Going into Thursday night’s battle with the 5-2-1 Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns have a chance to tie the Steelers for first place in the division. The AFC North has been quite the battle between all four teams, and Thursday night’s game could shake things up a bit. All four teams are in a race for the playoffs right now, with the 5-4 Ravens in last.

Nobody saw it coming. The Browns are in a playoff race behind Brian Hoyer. The words Johnny Manziel have barely been uttered since the start of the season. After the Browns lost to the Jaguars, people were calling for Manziel, but the Browns have won two straight and have a big battle Thursday on the road. The Browns have not been tremendous on either side of the football. They are in the middle of the pack in the NFL in passing yards and rushing yards and opposing passing yards. They are 30th in the NFL in opposing rushing yards. They really have not shined on offense or defense.

They are staying in games and keeping it close and finding ways to win. Hoyer has been a bit inconsistent, but he has done enough to got the job done. Are they for real? Well, three of their wins came against the horrid Titans, Raiders, and Bucs. They just squeezed by the Saints in the final seconds. Their most convincing win was a blowout against the Steelers. It has yet to truly be seen if this is a playoff team, but a win on the road against the Bengals would make a statement. The Browns schedule is favorable enough for them to win some more games. Three of their eight remaining games come against teams below .500. Two come against the Bengals, one against the Ravens, one against the beatable Bills, and one against the Colts.

The Bengals have a tough road the rest of the way with only two games against teams below .500. The difference between the Browns and Bengals though is that the Browns don’t have the same talent. This game really could be monumental for both teams. Cincy will look to run the football down the throats of the Browns defense, which has been unable to stop the run. This game could come down to that. Hoyer is fighting to overtake Manziel as the QB of the future in Cleveland, but he still needs some more success to do so. 5-3 means nothing. Now, it’s showtime for Hoyer and the Browns. Thursday, we find out if they are contenders or pretenders.

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