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Examining Bengals' 2015 AFC North opponents: Browns

4/15/2015

CINCINNATI -- The start of the 2015 season is still five months away, but that doesn't mean we can't begin breaking down the Cincinnati Bengals' schedule.

The NFL's official schedule hasn't been released yet, so we won't know the Bengals' official kickoff times and dates until sometime later this month. But we do know who they will be playing and where.

We've been examining each of those opponents in this really early series. Up next, the Cleveland Browns:

2014 record: 7-9

2014 finish: Finished last in the AFC North

Key losses: RB Ray Agnew, WR Miles Austin, TE Jordan Cameron, QB Brian Hoyer, DT Ahtyba Rubin, DE Jabaal Sheard, DB Buster Skrine

Key additions: WR Dwayne Bowe, QB Josh McCown, DB Tramon Williams, WR Brian Hartline, TE Rob Housler, QB Thad Lewis, DT Randy Starks

Series history: Bengals lead, 44-39

Last time vs. Bengals: Cincinnati won 30-0 at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 14, 2014.

Really early scouting report: Cleveland promises to be a completely different team in 2015. Johnny Manziel has taken steps to get his life more focused and centered this offseason. Personnel changes have been made in the passing game and pass defense as the Browns transition in those areas. And tweaks have even been made to the uniform and logo in an effort to move forward from the Browns' bumbling recent past, and to reconnect the franchise with the city it calls home.

Will these changes mean a better record than 7-9 this season? It's tough to say. After all, like the Bengals, the Browns and the rest of the AFC North will be facing some of the other better divisions in football -- the NFC West and AFC West -- in addition to seeing their own competitive bunch twice a yearh. For a team that at this moment doesn't have a set-in-stone starting quarterback, posting more than seven wins might not seem possible.

When the Bengals meet the Browns this season, they'll want to pick up exactly where they left off in the meeting last December. The focus going into that game, Manziel's starting debut, was to attack the run and to put an emphasis on stopping it first. The Bengals were going to force Manziel into trying to beat them through the air. It helped that their offense got off to a fast start, giving Cincinnati an early lead. In turn, that virtually pressured the Browns into almost exclusively using the passing game to come back. The Bengals will want to do that again this year, even if Cleveland's receivers are better than the group it had last year.

Another key addition for the Browns will come in the form of center Alex Mack. Along with Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, Mack has long been one of the Browns' biggest offensive leaders. It will almost feel like he was an offseason add because he spent the latter half of last season on injured reserve after breaking his leg.