1:00 p.m. ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (CLE ball, tied 0-0 / fourth-and-1, CLE 42 / 12:34 Q1)
• Facing a fourth-and-1 in their own territory, Cleveland attempted a fourth down attempt with a Nick Chubb rushing attempt over the left side of the Browns offensive line. Chubb’s effort, a 5-yard gain seemingly earned the Browns a first down. However, an illegal shift on the play negated the yardage gained and the first down and the Browns were forced to punt. Still, this showed that Cleveland was going to be aggressive all game.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (CIN ball, tied 0-0 / fourth-and-1, CIN 46 / 9:46 Q1)
• The Bengals face a fourth-and-1 from their own 46-yard line and line up to punt. Bengals special team captain Clayton Fejedelem takes a direct snap for a first down to extend the drive. Fejedelem would block a punt in the fourth quarter that would help the Bengals to pull to within eight points.
Key Coaching Decision #3: (CIN ball, trailing 26-18 / kickoff / 2:56 Q4)
• After a two-point conversion is successful to cut the Browns’ lead to a one-score game, the Bengals kickoff to Cleveland. the kick is deep — there was no attempt at a shorter kick or an onside attempt. The Browns get the ball back and are able to run out the clock and the Bengals never get another opportunity to get the ball back. We were surprised that they did not attempt a squib or an onside kick.
• Cleveland’s rookie class played outstanding on Sunday as quarterback Baker Mayfield went 27-of-37 passing and threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 19 times and gained 112 rushing yards.
• The Bengals passing game could not get going as Jeff Driskel, in his fourth game as starter, was harassed all game long by a blitzing Browns defense. The Bengals had minus-15 yards passing in the first half. Cincinnati would end up with 133 passing yards, but it was too little, too late. The Bengals have a hard time throwing the ball without wide receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, both of whom were out due to injury. Cincinnati was also terrible on third down, as they were only 1-of-8 on third down conversions.
• The Browns (7-7-1) have won five of their last six games and have an opportunity to go over .500 in Week 17. Even though they were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday night with the Ravens win, the Browns crowd sounded enthusiastic and rejuvenated. It appears that there are good times ahead for the Browns.
• The Bengals are trending in the opposite direction, as they are now 6-9 and have lost six of their last seven games. This has overshadowed a very good season by Bengals running back Joe Mixon, the AFC rushing leader with 1,063 yards gained.
• Both teams are relegated to the role of playoff spoiler in Week 17. The Bengals can end the Steelers’ playoff chances while the Browns face the Ravens and can impact their playoff seeding.