CLEVELAND - The Browns head into week six of the NFL season as the only winless team in the league. They hope to change all that with the in-state rival Bengals in town.
The Bengals come into Sunday's game at Cleveland Browns Stadium, having won four straight over the orange helmets and seven of the last eight. The Browns have lost a franchise record-tying 11 straight games and are hoping to avoid number 12.
The last time these two teams met down south, Adam Jones returned a punt 81 yards for a score, which proved to be the difference in a 34-27 Bengals win. Jones comes into Sunday's game second in the league in punt return average at 17.6.
The Bengals are coming off their worst performance of the year, a 17-13 loss at home to Miami that ended the Bengals three-game winning streak. Andy Dalton threw the ball 43 times. Don't expect that to happen this week against a Browns defense that gave up 243 yards rushing last week to the Giants. The Bengals no doubt will try and pound the football with Benjarvus Green-Ellis.
The Browns defense is happy to get back Joe Haden from a four-game suspension and he will face Bengals all-pro wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is off to great start with 36 catches for 493 yards and four touchdowns. D'Qwell Jackson also practiced this week and is likely to start Sunday as well.
The Browns offense jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Giants last week only to give up 20 unanswered points in the second quarter. That saw the game turn on a crucial third and one call that the Browns could not pick up. A red zone interception by Brandon Weeden hurt the team as well. The rookie has now thrown nine interceptions on the year.
Trent Richardson had a breakout game against the Bengals in week two, rushing for 109 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Richardson has been everything as advertised with 303 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, so far this season.
The Browns are still very thin at wide receiver with Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin expected to be still out. That means expect to see Josh Cribbs more on passing downs this week. The Browns offense is ranked 24th overall (27) rush (14) pass.
The offensive line, which didn't give up a sack last week for the first time in 18 games, will be tested this week. They face a Bengals defense that is tied for the NFL lead with 18 sacks, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who has six of them.
This week's game is loaded with all kinds of pressure, with a team ownership change that will be made official next Tuesday in Chicago, the Browns need to show some life.
Jimmy Haslam III said a few weeks ago, that changes would not be made until "The end of the year." I don't see that happening if things keep sliding downhill at the rate they are going.
Pat Shurmur is 0-8 in the division in his two seasons. Shurmur seems to feel the most pressure, as he has become shorter with the Cleveland media each week. Haslam is also expected to announce next week that Joe Banner, the former Philadelphia Eagles president, will be named CEO of the Browns.
How fast the changes will begin to happen is anyones guess. You can argue that changes at mid-season of any kind won't make much of difference at all, as the damage has already been done.
The landscape ahead does not look good for the Browns, who will go on the road to face the improving Colts before hosting the Chargers and Ravens before the teams bye week. Things do not look good in Browns town.