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Bengals-Browns matchup of the day: Thursday

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Posted Sept. 08, 2011 @ 8:43 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Bengals-Browns game:

Bengals wide receivers vs. the Browns' secondary

In the first meeting between the Browns and Bengals in Week Four of the 2010 season, the Browns double-teamed WR Chad Ochocinco. Left in single coverage, Terrell Owens had a field day, catching 10 passes for 222 yards and a TD.

When the teams met again in Week 15, Owens and Ochocinco started, but Owens soon left with a knee injury, and Ochocinco was targeted just three times. It was the last game both would play for Cincinnati. The Bengals didn't re-sign Owens, and they traded Ochocinco to New England in July.

On Sunday, the Bengals will use A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson as their primary wide receivers in two-WR sets. Green, the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft, has impressed from the get-go and was targeted a team-high 17 times in the preseason. Green has an eye-catching combination of size, speed and sheer athleticism. Simpson, who emerged late last season after getting more playing time, has a skill set somewhat similar to Green's and can also stretch a defense.

Two other wide receivers who figure to see regular playing time for Cincinnati Sunday are Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley. Caldwell caught four passes for 97 yards in the second meeting vs. Cleveland in 2010. He's a solid complementary option, as is Shipley, a quick, sure-handed target out of the slot.

Browns RCB Sheldon Brown, who was beaten on a long TD by Owens last season as the Browns brought the blitz, has had a solid summer and remains a dependable defender. LCB Joe Haden, who was a major playmaker down the stretch last season, is an athletic ballhawk who has the ability to match up with the game's top pass catchers. He's the Browns' top cornerback and a major asset to the defense. The Browns' reserve cornerbacks are Dimitri Patterson and rookies Buster Skrine and James Dockery. Patterson didn't fare well as a starter in Philadelphia but could fit well as a reserve in this scheme.

SS T.J. Ward led the club in tackles a season ago (105) but also defended 10 passes and recorded two interceptions. The Browns could go with either Mike Adams or Usama Young at free safety. Young missed a good deal of the summer with a hamstring injury but has returned to action. 

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