Quarterback Brian Hoyer made his debut for the Cleveland Browns last week, and proceeded to shock the rest of the league by leading the team to its first victory of the season with three touchdown passes.
Now he’ll face a much stiffer test against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Hoyer completed 30 of his 54 passes for 321 yards, but also tossed three picks. Still he breathed new life in receiver Josh Gordon, who totaled 10 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. And third-year tight end Jordan Cameron caught a career-high three touchdowns.
It was Gordon’s first game since serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and increased some speculation as to whether he would be traded by a Browns team looking to clean house. However Gordon reportedly was told by head coach Rob Chudzinksi that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Hoyer will once again get the start ahead of second-year passer Brandon Weeden, who’s still recovering from a thumb injury.
It was the Browns first game since trading running back Trent Richardson, and the running game clearly struggled, barely reaching 103 yards on the day between six different rushers.
Meanwhile the Cleveland defense continued its early season dominance by generating six sacks, including one for rookie first round pick Barkevious Mingo. Only the New York Jets are allowing fewer yards per game than the Browns, and the team is also third in the NFL in sacks with 12.0.
Cleveland might have a tough time getting to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who’s only been sacked five times, the fourth lowest in the NFL.
Strangely all of those sacks came last week against Green Bay, but Dalton handled the extra pressure well, going 20-for-28 for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick.
Dalton did also have lost fumble, one of three for the Bengals on the day, including one returned 24 yards for a touchdown by the Packers M.D. Jennings.
Cincinnati calmed down late the game, scoring 13 fourth quarter points, highlighted by Dalton’s 11-yard strike to receiver Marvin Jones, and a 58-yard fumble return by corner Terence Newman with four minutes left.
The Bengals defense also managed to pick Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice, and are now tied for seventh in the league in interceptions with four. It was Rodgers first multi-pick game since 2010’s Super Bowl run.
The game starts at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: Cincinnati is favored by 4.5 points.
Over/Under: 42.5 points
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Cleveland 17