Cleveland (2-6) at Cincinnati (7-0), 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network. A pair of Buckeye State and AFC North rivals meet along the Ohio River Thursday night as the undefeated Bengals and Andy Dalton host the Cleveland Browns to open play in week 9.

The Browns make the 3 and half hour drive south along I-71, taking a 34-20 loss to Arizona with them downstate. Cleveland led 20-10 halftime lead against the Cardinals get away from them at FirstEnergy Stadium, as they would be shutout in the second half 14-0. Cleveland was held to 39 yards rushing, while Arizona ran for 119 (with RB Chris Johnson leading his club with 109) in the loss at home along the shores of Lake Erie. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down conversions in upstate Ohio (Arizona was 13-16, Cleveland 9 of 16 and 0 of 1 on fourth down) and the Desert Angry Birds ruled the clock, keeping the pigskin for 34:23 to Cleveland’s 25:37.

“We don’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We have a quick turnaround and have to go on the road against an undefeated team in the division.”

Clevelnd tight end Gary Barnidge had seven receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown against Arizona. Barnidge now has a career-high six touchdowns this season, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome (1981 and 1983) for the third-most receiving touchdowns by a Browns tight end in a season, trailing Newsome (nine in 1975) and Jordan Cameron (seven in 2013).

The Browns defense recorded a season-high four turnovers (three fumbles and one interception) against Arizona. Cornerback K’Waun Williams had two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, while linebacker Armony Bryant forced a fumble and recovered a fumble that he returned 34 yards to setup a Browns touchdown late in the first quarter. Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby recorded seven tackles and forced his first fumble of the season.

“Getting turnovers is one of the things we preach,” Browns safety Tashaun Gipson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The coaches challenge us to be one of those teams that is nasty. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an interception all the time or a big hit but be the guys who attack the ball by any means.”

Gipson secured his second interception of the season last week against the Cardinals. Since 2013, his 13 interceptions are the most in the NFL.

Cincinnati remained unbeaten and rallied against Pittsburgh, erasing a 10-6 deficit after 45 minutes of play to take a 16-10 win at Heinz Field. Although they were held to 78 yards (the Steelers tallied 116), Cincinnati managed to sack Ben Roethlisberger (262 yards) three times, while picking him off three times. Dalton (231 yards) did manage to toss a 9-yard TD pass to WR A.J. Green to get the rally going but was sacked three times and picked off twice. Third down tries were a problem for both clubs (the Bengals were 4 of 15, while the Steelers were 3 of 11) but Pittsburgh managed to rule the clock, holding the ball for 30:09, while Cincinnati kept it for 29:51.

Dalton passed for 231 yards and connected with Green on a go-ahead nine-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give Cincinnati a lead it would not relinquish. Dalton earned his 23rd career road victory, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisber and Matt Ryan for the most road wins by a starting quarterback in his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

“Our defense kept getting stops, the offense had chances to get it in there and eventually score touchdowns and we did,” Dalton told the Cincinnati Enquirer and WWE Sports. “We were able to do enough to get a touchdown at the end. The defense played great. This was a big team win. We have another divisional game this week against Cleveland. It is a short week and we need to prepare to get ready to go.”

Green, who had 11 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh, enters Thursday’s matchup against Cleveland among the league leaders in receiving against divisional opponents. Since entering the league in 2011, Green ranks second in receiving yards (1,971) among AFC players against divisional foes. His 135 receptions and 14 touchdown catches each rank third in the conference against divisional opponents during that span.

The AFC receiving leaders against divisional opponents since 2011:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) RECEPTIONS
Andre Johnson – Houston and Indianapolis, 142
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh, 138
A.J. Green – Cincinnati, 135

PLAYER – TEAM, REC. YARDS
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh, 2,003
A.J. Green – Cincinnati, 1,971
Demaryius Thomas – Denver, 1,866

PLAYER – TEAM(S), TOUCHDOWNS
Rob Gronkowski – New England, 18
Eric Decker – Denver and New York Jets, 16
A.J. Green – Cincinnati, 14

The Bengals lead the series 44-39 and have outscored their instate and AFC North rivals 1,765-1,682. They met last year in the Buckeye State and spilt the series in 2014, with each winning in the other team’s park.

They met in week 10 in Cincy and the Bengals could only muster a first quarter field goal by K Mike Nugent from 43 yards as the Browns led from start to finish, taking a 24-3 win. The Bengals were outrushed 170-86 and Dalton was picked off three times in the lopsided loss (Cincy would turn the pigskin over four times in the Thursday night contest). Cleveland and Cincinnati didn’t exactly make their respective fan bases happy on third down tries (the Browns were 7 of 16, while the Bengals were 3 of 17 but was successful in their only fourth down try) and the Browns ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 35:49 to Cincinnati’s 24:11.

Game two… the Bengals made the trek northward and got some major revenge in the week 15 rematch along the shores of Lake Erie and took Cleveland to the woodshed, scoring all of their points unchallenged, while shuting out the Browns 30-0. RB Jeremy Hill ran for 148 and a pair of TDs as his team tallied 244, while holding their hosts to 53 and Cincy’s defense forced a pair of Johnny Manziel interceptions in the contest. This time around, the Bengals did reasonably well on third down conversions, going 50 percent at 7 of 14 (2 of 2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 38:52, while the Brownies struggled on third down, going a somewhat dismal 1 of 10 (1 of 1 on fouth down) and kept the ball for 21:08.

Cincinnati was favored by 6 in the week 10 contest at Paul Brown Stadium and the Browns won by 24, covering the spread. Neither club reached the 45 over/under, scoring only 27 points. In the week 15 affair along the shores of Lake Erie, the Bengals easily covered the 1-point spread, with their 30-point shutout win but again both teams didn’t reach the over/under (43 1/2).

The Bengals are favored by 10 1/2 and the over/under’s 47 1/2. The 47 1/2 makes sense. It’s the 10 1/2 that keeps us awake at night. The Browns aren’t that bad but the Bengals weren’t that good last week against Pittsburgh in the Steel City. Still, as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Browns make this one close along the Ohio River on Thursday night but Bengals remain unbeaten in front of the home crowd.

Injury Report

Cleveland
OUT: CB Joseph Haden (Concussion), WR Brian Hartline (Concussion), WR Andrew Hawkins (Concussion), QB Josh McCown (Hand), S Jordan Poyer (Shoulder), S Donte Whitner (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: S Tashaun Gipson (Ankle), LB Nathaniel Orchard (Shoulder), LB Craig Robertson (Ankle)
PROBABLE: QB Johnny Manziel (Elbow)

Cincinnati
OUT: T Andre Smith (Concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Rey Maualuga (Calf), DE Carlos Dunlap (Shoulder)

Weather: Mostly cloudy and 64 degrees.

BROADCAST INFORMATION: 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Tony Boselli. SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 83 (Cleveland), 93 (Cincinnati). XM: 225 (Cleveland), 226 (Cincinnati).

Broadcast information and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best and USA Today, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.

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