One week after a disappointing loss to the Dolphins, the Cincinnati Bengals have a chance to rebound as they travel to Cleveland to take on the 0-5 Browns.
In their first meeting, the bengals came away with a 34-27 win, in what proved an unexpected offensive shootout.
Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden continue to improve despite their poor record, and are both capable of putting up serious points. Given the Bengals' struggles on offense last week, Cleveland will fancy their chances at home on Sunday.
Here are seven keys to a Cincinnati Bengals win
Get BenJarvus Green-Ellis Going Again.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has looked the twin of Cedric Benson in the last few weeks. With fumbles becoming a fixture in his repertoire, fans are already calling for his head. Green-Ellis' struggles became painfully apparent in Week 5 as both Andy Dalton and Bernard Scott posted more rushing yards than him. In his first action of the 2012 season, Scott breathed life into the running game, averaging 8 yards with every touch, while Green-Ellis sputtered to only 1.6 YPC.
However, his contribution was short-lived with a knee injury knocking him out of the game, and out for the year.
So where does the run game go from here?
It seems the Bengals still have their wagon hitched to Green-Ellis. For now at least.
He needs to improve significantly, especially given the passing game's poor form last week. With Joe Haden back in the secondary, the Bengals won't have it so easy through the air in Cleveland.
A.J. Green must play spoiler to Joe Haden Return
Back following a four-game ban for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy for using performance-enhancing drugs, Joe Haden will be hoping to make an immediate impact. His lack of presence in the Browns' secondary has been crippling in 2012 and he needs to redeem himself to his teammates by having a big day in Week 6.
In their first meeting, A.J. Green scored a decisive touchdown that put the nail in the coffin of a Cleveland Browns comeback late in the game. Can Joe Haden's presence stop that from happening again?
Well, if the Bengals play like they did last week against Miami, Cleveland could, with a strong offensive showing, put some serious pressure on Cincinnati. The Browns couldn't hold an early lead over the New York Giants last week, but with Joe Haden in the secondary, and the Cincinnati Bengals their opponent, Sunday could be a different story.
Shut down Trent Richardson
Back in Week 2, Trent Richardson made short work of the Bengals defense.
He romped to 109 yards and made highlight reels across the country, bouncing off Bengals defenders for a TD.
However, in Week 4 the Bengals defense held Maurice Jones-Drew to a paltry 38 yards rushing and the following week confined Reggie Bush to 48 yards on the ground. Bush and MJD may not have the raw power that has brought Richardson so much success, but their inability to contribute much against Cincy has to be encouraging to Mike Zimmer. Richardson has gone from strength-to-strength since Week 2 and is already looking (to use an NFL cliche) "The Real Deal." Stopping Richardson is a must if the Bengals want to come out with a W.
Mike Nugent must be dependable
If you expect this to be a fairly close affair as I do, Mike Nugent is going to be an important guy in your game plan.
In the final moments of Week 5, it was Mike Nugent's wayward kick that sealed a win for the Miami Dolphins. Of course, it was a collective poor effort that put Nugent in that situation to begin with, but he still needs to make that kick. Nugent is a reliable kicker, and the Bengals have won their fair share of games off of his boot alone.
However, with Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden already showing that they are comfortable going for it on fourth down, Nugent needs to put in a solid kicking game to keep his stock high. Nugent doesn't need to be spectacular by any means, he just needs to make the kicks he should make.
The Bengals made Brandon Weeden look like Peyton Manning in their first meeting, giving him all the time in the world to stand in the pocket and sacking him only twice.
Fast forward to Week 6 and the Bengals enter the weekend leading the league in sacks with a grand total of 18.
They sacked RGIII five times, Blaine Gabbert six times and last week only managed two against Ryan Tannehill last week. If the now-healthier Bengals defense can put pressure on Weeden, it could be ugly for the rookie QB. Michael Johnson is improving every week and could provide the X-factor in this week's match-up.
The Pacman Factor
In Week 2, Adam Jones took an 81-yard punt return to the house, to put the Bengals ahead after a Cleveland four-and-out on the opening drive. Could it happen again?
Probably not, but that doesn't matter. The simple presence of Jones in the return game will put the shakes up the Browns. Cleveland will not hesitate in kicking to Jones, but every time they do they will hold their breath just a little.
There will have been some focus on stopping the return game in practice this week, and while the Browns could shut Jones out of the game entirely, the pressure on their special teams unit could easily see it go the other way.
Start fast then win time of possession
The Bengals offense has made some strides in 2012. Lingering issues remain, but Andy Dalton has shown us that he and the Bengals receivers (when on the same page) can put up some serious points, and fast.
However, while the Bengals are fourth in the league in first-half points (14.8 average), their second-quarter stats are beating their first-quarter numbers by two TD's at 44-30 in points.
If we disregard the Mo Sanu TD bomb in Week 3, the Bengals offense hasn't fared well at the very beginning of games, and they seem to tail off in the second half of match-ups, averaging 10.2 yards so far this year.
A fast start in Cleveland will put the pressure on early, and decrease the amount of Trent Richardson the Bengals have to contend with.
If Cincy are going to continue to fall off the wagon in the second half of games, they need to make the most of their opening possessions.
If they can get out in front in the first quarter, they can slow things down in the second half and embrace Marvin Lewis' love for winning the time-of-possession battle, and with it, a W.