Watch NFL Thursday Night Football Live Streaming Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals match will be kick off at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday 06 November 2014 online, Time 20:25 ET and its broadcast On CBS, ESPN, NFL Network Online.
The Cleveland Browns understand a primetime matchup against their in-state rival offers the perfect opportunity to end their division struggles on the road and perhaps solidify themselves as serious playoff contenders.
With first place in the AFC North on the line, the Browns seek a third straight victory while looking to snap their 17-game road division skid Thursday night against the front-running Cincinnati Bengals.
Cleveland (5-3) hasn’t won on the road in the North since a 20-12 victory at Cincinnati on Sept. 28, 2008. In the midst of a 13-0-1 overall home stretch, the Bengals (5-2-1) have won five straight over the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium since that defeat.
“They’re a good team, and one hallmark of good teams is that they win at home,” tackle Joe Thomas told the Browns’ official website.
History obviously isn’t on the Browns’ side, but that doesn’t seem to matter for a team that has surpassed its four wins from 2013 and faces the Bengals with first place at stake this late in a season for the first time since 1986.
“If we want to win the AFC North, we’re going to have to beat Cincinnati and this is our first opportunity,” Thomas said. “The stage is a little bit bigger because it’s the Thursday night game. You’re the only game on TV.
“This will be the best opponent we’ve played in a few games so it will certainly be a good measuring stick.”
A victory would give the Browns a share of first place with Pittsburgh heading into the weekend. Cleveland hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002, but a win Thursday could go a long way toward helping end that drought.
“(The NFL) definitely (knows) about the Cleveland Browns,” said safety Tashaun Gipson, who leads the league with six interceptions. “They take the Browns seriously. They have no choice. You don’t win five games by mistake.”
The Browns won a season-high three in a row in 2013 and concluded the run with a 37-24 home victory over Buffalo on Thursday, Oct. 3 – the same night quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Though Cleveland has rebounded from a 24-6 loss at Jacksonville on Oct. 19, it needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to post a 10-point victory over winless Oakland the next week and trailed lowly Tampa Bay by a point when Hoyer hit Taylor Gabriel for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 8:59 remaining in Sunday’s 22-17 victory.
The Browns averaged 146.4 rushing yards through the first five games, but have totaled 158 in the three they’ve been without Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, whose season ended when he broke his fibula in the 31-10 victory over the Steelers on Oct. 12.
Ben Tate has rushed for 65 yards and averaged 1.6 per carry in the last three games.
Rookie Terrance West, meanwhile, could get more looks after he ran a team-high 15 times against the Buccaneers. West gained only 48 yards but also caught a 2-yard TD pass.
Though inconsistent line play has contributed to Cleveland’s ground struggles, coach Mike Pettine won’t veer from the game plan.
“We’re not going to abandon our approach,” he said. “We feel over time we’ll get better up front, but we took a step backwards and we’re trying to regain that ground.”
The Browns and Bengals are tied for 30th with an average of 139.6 rushing yards.
Cincinnati yielded 132 on the ground to the Jaguars in Sunday’s 33-23 victory, but benefited from 154 and two TDs on 24 carries from rookie Jeremy Hill.
Likely to start again for the injured Giovani Bernard (hip and clavicle), Hill broke open a three-point game with his 60-yard score with 8:04 remaining last weekend. Hill, who averages 4.7 yards per carry while rushing for 349, leads all rookie backs with five TDs.
“We know he’s that kind of player,” said teammate Mohamed Sanu, who has 27 receptions and three TDs while averaging 92.8 receiving yards in the last five games.
A.J. Green caught three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown in his return from a three-game absence with a toe injury. Green hopes for a better performance after he recorded nine receptions and 58 yards while often being covered by Pro Bowler Joe Haden in the two 2013 meetings with the Browns.
One of Haden’s two interceptions off Andy Dalton during Cleveland’s 41-20 loss at Cincinnati last season was returned 29 yards for a TD.
Dalton threw two scores against the Jaguars, but has thrown five of his six picks in the last four games. He’s thrown nine TDs, seven INTs and posted an 83.1 passer rating while splitting the last four meetings with Cleveland.
It’s uncertain if tackle Andre Smith will have the chance to protect Dalton after he suffered a sprained left ankle Sunday.
Former Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins leads the Browns with 39 receptions and 504 yards, but he’s listed as questionable with a leg injury. Tight end Jordan Cameron has been ruled out with a concussion.