3 Reasons the Browns Will Upset the Bengals in Week 1

The Browns can put the entire AFC North on alert in Week 1.

Za'Darius Smith will have a big impact on why the Browns can upset the Bengals in Week 1.
Za'Darius Smith will have a big impact on why the Browns can upset the Bengals in Week 1. / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
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Considering the Browns have never won the AFC North and the Bengals how won the division in two straight seasons, it's pretty notable that Cincy isn't even favored by a field goal against Cleveland (2.5-point spread as of writing) to kick off the 2023 season.

When you consider the public perceptions of the two teams — that the Bengals are a Super Bowl contender while the Browns typically get no respect — it's even more interesting that this game is projected to be such a close one. People are taking notice, and with a matchup this tight, Cleveland is absolutely capable of kicking off the season with a big upset win.

Here are three reasons the Browns are going to upset the Bengals on Sunday.

Why the Browns Will Upset the Bengals

1. Joe Burrow Can't Handle Our Pass Rush

Listing the three reasons as "1. Myles Garrett, 2. Za'Darius Smith, 3. Dalvin Tomlinson" was kind of tempting, and this is really the biggest key to a Browns upset.

The Cleveland pass rush is going to be one of the best in the NFL. Garrett is the best rusher there is, and he'll finally actually have a solid supporting cast around him. Upgrading from Jadeveon Clowney to Za'Darius Smith means Garrett might finally not be the most double-teamed rusher in the league.

And going from Jordan Elliott to Dalvin Tomlinson and Shelby Harris on the interior means quarterbacks will have nowhere to go to escape those edge rushers.

This unit will be a key against every opponent, but it's especially true against the Bengals.

Burrow was the NFL's most-sacked QB in 2021 and still suffered the sixth-most sacks in 2022. Pro Football Focus ranked Cincinnati's offensive line No. 30 in pass protection last year. And now Burrow is playing hurt, too, getting back on the field after missing the entire preseason with a calf injury.

He's going to face pressure every single time he drops back, and that could be especially disastrous if his mobility isn't 100% there. This is going to be a frustrating, painful afternoon for Burrow.