Containing A.J. Green: The Bengals' wide receiver didn't take over games against the Browns statistically last season. In two meetings, Green had four receptions for 151 yards and one touchdown. It was the timeliness of his catches that hurt Cleveland. Green's 41-yard touchdown off a quick snap in last season's opener put the Bengals ahead for good in the fourth quarter, and his leaping 51-yard catch in the final minute led to the game-winning field goal in the second meeting. On Sunday, the Browns have to stop Green without cornerback Joe Haden, who is beginning his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. It's a significant loss, because Haden has intercepted or defended 24 passes since the start of 2011, four more than the next highest defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Baltimore should look to get Ray Rice more involved this week against the Eagles.
Increasing touches for Ray Rice: The Ravens' first-regular season game with the new no-huddle offense resulted in fewer opportunities for the star running back. Rice made the most of his chances, totaling 93 yards on 13 touches (10 carries and three receptions). Look for Baltimore to feature Rice on Sunday in what should be a more competitive game against the Eagles. Rice has been an accurate barometer of success for the Ravens. Last season, Baltimore was 11-0 when Rice had at least 18 touches and 1-4 when he had fewer than 18. Despite the limited carries, Rice managed to run the ball into the end zone twice to extend his hot scoring stretch. Since Week 8 of last season, Rice leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Trent Richardson needs help: The Browns' rookie running back has been having a one-on-one verbal battle with Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga this week. But Richardson won't be able to beat Cincinnati's run defense alone. In his NFL debut, Richardson rushed for 39 yards, which led to Maualuga describing Richardson's game as "nothing spectacular." Richardson's ineffectiveness was the result of getting hit in the backfield on seven of his 19 carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was tied for most in the NFL for Week 1. Richardson lost 4 yards on those rushes but gained 43 yards on the 12 carries (3.6-yard average) when he wasn't hit behind the line.
Protecting Ben Roethlisberger: Whether the Steelers avoid their first 0-2 start since 2002 depends on their ability to block for their quarterback. In his last four starts since injuring his ankle against the Browns in Week 14 last season, Roethlisberger hasn't completed more than half of his passes when defenses send at least five pass-rushers. In the season opener at Denver, he was 6 of 14 for 60 yards and an interception against blitzes. This could be a problem against Rex Ryan's aggressive defense. The Jets have the second-highest rate of sending five or more pass-rushers (43.4 percent) since the start of the 2009 season.
Dominating Battle of Ohio: The Bengals have won the past three meetings with Browns, including six of the last seven. A major reason why has been Cincinnati's play in the second half. The Browns had the lead at halftime in both meetings last season only to lose each time. Cincinnati outscored Cleveland 30-6 in the second half in 2011. The last second-half touchdown scored by the Browns against the Bengals was a 46-yard pass from Colt McCoy to Brian Robiskie on Dec. 19, 2010.