Where: Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: Bengals by 1.5
Forecast: Temperatures expected in the 60s, 60-percent chance of rain and winds expected around 25 mph
Records: Bengals (Overall: 3-2, AFC North: 1-1), Browns (Overall: 0-5, AFC North 0-2)
Past results: Two most recent regular-season meetings: Sept. 16, 2012: Bengals 34, Browns 27; Nov. 27, 2011: Bengals 23, Browns 20. Series record: Bengals lead 42-36.
What matters: Like many teams, the Bengals have had Cleveland's number in recent years but always seem to scuffle at Browns Stadium. Sure, they've won six of the past seven in the series, but the last three games in Cleveland came down to the final minutes. One game went to overtime with the Bengals prevailing, Cleveland won 23-20 and last year a fluke play catching the Browns off guard flipped a fourth-quarter comeback win for Cincinnati last year. Four weeks ago, Cincinnati held off Cleveland despite Brandon Weeden throwing for a career-high passer rating of 114.9. This could have formed a trap game for Cincinnati with a Sunday Night Football tilt looming, but an upset defeat at home against Miami last night foiled that setup.
Who matters: LB Rey Maualuga. The Bengals MLB endured a rough meeting with the Browns in the Week 2 win. Cleveland RB Trent Richardson broke Maualuga tackles on both his touchdown runs. The Browns also took advantage of backs matched up one-on-one out of the backfield to expose the Cincinnati linebackers in coverage. Maualuga played much better the last two weeks and will need to do so to avoid another 27-point outburst by the Browns.
Key matchups: WR A.J. Green vs. CB Joe Haden. These two have been going at it since the days in the SEC in one of the great matchups of young talent in the NFL. Green only caught four passes on Haden in two games last year, but two of those set up the game-winning Cincinnati scores. This will be Haden's first appearance coming off a four-game suspension. He dramatically changes the setup of Cleveland's defense, allowing less focus to be placed on Green over the top since he'll mostly be left one-on-one.
Injuries of note: The Bengals are about as healthy as can be expected. The big injury news came Monday when the team placed RB Bernard Scott on IR with a torn ACL. Expectations are Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman will split any extra snaps left behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Inside stuff: In the first game, Weeden and the Browns ripped off six plays of 20 yards or more. Three of those came at least partially due to errors at the safety position. Since, CB Nate Clements officially moved over as the starting safety. Clements is still adjusting to playing the position for the first time in his career, but represents a significant step forward in coverage ability, football instincts and savvy from Taylor Mays and Jeromy Miles, who both filled in the first two weeks of the year.
Connections: Former Bengals DE Frostee Rucker will return to torment his former team. Rucker signed with Cleveland this offseason after racking up four sacks with the Bengals last year. He managed a sack in the first game, as well. Rucker still owns stake in a downtown Cincinnati Orange Leaf business along with current Bengals Robert Geathers and Kevin Huber.
Stat you should know: Disaster consistently befalls the Bengals on third down. They now rank 31st in the NFL in third-down conversion rate at 24.6 percent. In the last two games they are 7 of 34 in those situations.
Looking ahead: In the grand scheme, if the Bengals were to lost at Cleveland the realistic thought of playoff decreases dramtically. In this manageable six-game stretch to open the season they needed to come out 4-2, if not 5-1. Considering they are about to play Pittsburgh, Denver and the New York Giants, giving up a winnable game against the winless Browns would not be in their best interest.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Browns 20.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSBengals.