Browns-Bengals Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals' resilience and ability to come back has them off to the best start in team history, though they'd probably like to avoid being in the position of having to rally again to beat a banged-up rival at home this week.

The Bengals can improve to 8-0 by handing the rival Cleveland Browns a fourth consecutive defeat Thursday night.

Cincinnati has stayed with New England, Denver and Carolina in the ranks of the unbeatens thanks to its never-say-die approach. The Bengals rallied from two fourth-quarter deficits to win at Baltimore in Week 3, overcame a 17-point hole to beat Seattle in overtime two weeks later and took their first lead with 2:57 remaining in Sunday's 16-10 victory at Pittsburgh.

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"Just the way that this season has played out, there's times we've had to come back and we've been able to do it, and that does build confidence,'' quarterback Andy Dalton said. ''If you prove you can do it, then there won't be any doubt that you can do it again.

''I think that's just kind of the mindset that we have. Regardless of what's going on, we're going to win the game.''

Trying to become the 33rd team in NFL history and first since Kansas City in 2013 to go 8-0, the Bengals feel they have the makeup to not only win their first playoff game since the 1990 season but perhaps the Super Bowl.

''We're playing for something greater than being 7-0,'' said receiver A.J. Green, whose nine-yard touchdown catch put Cincinnati ahead in the fourth Sunday. ''We're trying to win a championship."

Four games up on second-place Pittsburgh in the loss column, the Bengals are in control of the AFC North. They've lost only twice in their last 11 against Cleveland (2-6) at Paul Brown Stadium, though the most recent of those was a 24-3 defeat Nov. 6 that snapped their five-game home winning streak in the series.

''It's a very important game for us,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ''We'd be halfway through the division and kind of holding serve.''

It's also a potentially important bounce-back game for Dalton. He entered Sunday's contest third in the league in passer rating at 107.6 but matched his season total with two interceptions while getting sacked three times, posting a season-low 64.7 rating.

Dalton was picked off three times while going 10 of 33 for 86 yards and a career-low 2.0 rating Nov. 6.

Green had a season-high 11 receptions for 118 yards last weekend. He's totaled 130 yards with no touchdowns in his last four meetings with the Browns, but could catch a big break Thursday.

Cleveland Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden has been a menace to Green, but he and safety Donte Whitner could sit after both suffered concussions in Sunday's 34-20 loss to Arizona. It's the second concussion in three weeks for Haden, who missed the previous two weeks.

Coach Mike Pettine also isn't sure if Josh McCown will be under center after he injured his ribs in the second half against the Cardinals. Despite the injury, McCown threw three TDs while going 18 of 34 for 211 yards.

''We'll see how he is in the next couple days,'' Pettine said of McCown, who also has been plagued by a shoulder injury.

Pettine still favors McCown, 2-16 with an 81.3 rating as a starter since the beginning of last season, over Johnny Manziel no matter how much fans or local media have clamored for him.

''I don't really get too wrapped up in what the outside perception is of our quarterback room, but I just know Josh McCown has done a great job for us,'' Pettine said.

"We feel good about where Johnny is and the direction he's headed. Those are just our circumstances."

The Browns need improvement from a running game that matched a season low with 39 yards last week and is second-to-last in the league at 3.5 yards per carry. Cincinnati, however, is tied for last with 5.0 yielded per rush.

Cleveland ranks 30th with 405.4 yards allowed per game and gave up season highs of 491 and 372 passing yards to Arizona. The Bengals are sixth in offense at 394.0 yards a contest.

''It's a huge challenge, and I have a feeling a lot of people outside of this building aren't going to give (us) much of a chance, and to me that's the beauty of sport,'' Pettine said.

"Just like last year (Nov. 6), similar circumstances and we went down there and played one of our best games, so we know that when our minds are right and we're doing what we're supposed to be doing and playing at a high level emotionally and physically, then we can play with anybody. We have to go down there with that mentality."