Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals 2014 : Preview Game

Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals 2014 : Preview Game

The AFC North has separated itself from the rest of the NFL, as all four teams sport winning records ahead of Week 10. With each team having a legitimate chance to make the playoffs, every divisional matchup is extremely crucial.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are set to face off in an important contest on “Thursday Night Football.” Not only does the game have postseason implications, but it has historical significance in the Ohio rivalry.

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.